Have you ever wondered how your level of happiness–or lack thereof–affects your health? Are there any direct correlations between how happy you are and how healthy you are? Over the years, I have read many times how stress can greatly affect your health. The more stressed you are, the more physical side effects you have. With that in mind, could the opposite be true? Could the power of joy and happiness create a healthier you?
Not that I have ever polled people (although maybe I should), nor am I a doctor, I have, however, observed that many people who are unhappy also have health issues. Personally I find this incredibly fascinating because happiness is a choice. Although you may not be able control initial feelings, I firmly believe that ultimately you do have control over the continued state of those emotions. Just as you can choose to be angry and irritated for an extended period of time, so can you choose to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind, of which we all have complete control. Not to say there are not things that make you sad and can upset you but overall you can choose to be happy with you situation or you choose to be upset with it.
This past weekend I was in a room full of people and as I stood there and looked around the room I couldn’t help but notice the different personalities and expressions and displays of emotion. Some were happy, some somber, some were nervous and some excited. Surprisingly, I noticed that there were also a couple of people who were not smiling, in fact they were scowling. Why? They were all there to watch their children, grandchildren and friend’s children dance and put on a little talent show. Specifically when there was a group of girls approximately 3 in age performing I noticed many people couldn’t contain their smiles because watching little girls dance and be silly makes most people smile. So how is it you could see something so sweet yet you still stand there so bitter and cold? Are you really that unhappy in life that even the purest of things cannot make you smile? Why would anyone choose to live that way?
This made me think about myself and a time when I was not happy and the way it affected me. I probably would have displayed the same scowls these people did and not even realized I was doing it. My mind was so consumed with anger and frustration that I could not find the joy in simple things. Sadly, I was making a choice to be unhappy which obviously affected much more of me then I had realized at the time.
Thinking back on that time has caused me to take notice of the dramatic change in my own health since I rid my life of so much unhappiness. Prior to a huge change in my life four years ago, I was unhappy like those people at the performance. So much so that it filled my life and took a huge toll on my health. I was not unhealthy in the way many people are in that I did not have any diseases nor did I need to take medications for any ailments. I was, however, in a place in my life where I was miserable. I never slept which is obviously not good for me or anyone, and I was losing weight at an extremely unhealthy rate. I don’t remember thinking much about my health during that time–other things were much too important for me to worry myself with my health. Obviously I knew I was not sleeping and I noticed my weight change but honestly I was just trying to get by and do the best for my children that I could during an extremely hard time. Friends and family would comment about my weight and their concerns for me but I just wasn’t in a place to see it clearly.
It wasn’t until I had made it through that dreaded period of time and I had come out on the other side a new person that I noticed the dramatic change in my health. I had completely changed. I no longer was angry and miserable. I was once again excited about my life. An extremely joyful and truly happy person. It was then that I realized instead of staying up all night as I was in the years prior and sleeping for two or three hours each night, I was going to bed at a reasonable time and sleeping in when I got the chance. I was not in any hurry to get out of bed and I was so happy to stay right there next to the man I loved. Sleep was just the first change.
My weight was the next issue that just seemed to fall into place. No longer was I wondering if I was going to have to go and buy size zero pants because my fours and twos were falling off. Maybe for some of you that is a dream come true, for me it is not. I am not a teenage girl and it not my goal to look like one either. I enjoy being healthy and more importantly I feel it very important to not fall into the trap of the excessively skinny fad. Thinking back to the time when I was not happy, I knew I had a problem when I stepped on the scale and barely weighed over 100 pounds. I didn’t need my friends and family to point that out, but I certainly did not know what to do about it at the time. I knew there was something wrong with me I just did not know what it was or how to deal with it.
What I did not know was my problem was a lack of happiness. It had never occurred to me that my lack of happiness and my misery was greatly affecting my health. My lack of happiness led to no sleep and me not eating. It was not like I consciously thought about the fact that I was depriving myself of sleep or food, actually it was the opposite. I was consumed with everything else that it all kept me away from proper rest and nourishment. My mind was continually spinning with all that was happening around me and so sleep and food never crossed my mind.
That was until my life changed for the better. I had finally found happiness. A happiness that completed me and filled me with so much joy and wonder. I knew the love I had/have with my husband was perfect but I never thought it would have a direct effect on my health–it did. I am healthier and happier than I ever was.
So was it happiness that made me a healthier person or was it just coincidence?
As an example, scientologists believe that you can heal your body with positive thinking. I am not a scientologist–not even close–but if I remove religion from their way of thinking, are they onto something? The theory behind this is that the mind controls the body and therefore your state of mind affects your entire body. If your mind is in a bad place, will it will greatly affect the wellbeing of your body? And following that logic, because you can control your mind, thoughts and feelings, should it follow that you ultimately have control over your health of your body?
So speaking solely about my own experience I can say that four years ago my mind was trapped in a very bad place. Truly the darkness consumed me. With that came the lack of sleep, stress and the weight loss. Then a year later, after I escaped the misery and found my joy and happiness, I am now sleeping and maintaining a healthy weight for me. Fast forward two more years and I am still sleeping, my weight is still a healthy one, and I continue to grow in happiness.
So now I am asking, does happiness play a role in your health? Is my observation consistent with the things you have experienced or is it just coincidence? Share you stories and tell me your experience or theories on this topic. I really want to know. Much more importantly, I hope that sharing helps others.
Author Bio: Carrie Dahle has spent her life doing the right thing, rather than pursuing her dreams. That is until now. Four years ago, she threw caution to the wind, divorced her then husband of ten years, and began reaching for the stars. She began writing professionally, and has been published numerous times. She is the founder and creator or Day to Day Woman and hopes that her experiences in life will inspire others