There is plenty of evidence that suggests how being happy is actually good for your health. One study stated that those who were happy and had a generally more optimistic outlook on life were more likely to live up to 15 per cent longer than average.
Is Happiness a choice?
But is happiness a choice? Are we not victims of our circumstances, of our genetics, of situations beyond our control that in fact govern who we are?
Nations across the globe have invested heavily in understanding happiness and what drives it. The Dalai Lama famously said: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Taking back control
When you look around the world, practicing compassion is in every corner – from an international muslim charity running appeals to feed and clothe struggling communities, to empathetic individuals who give everything they have to help those in need. When you witness the devastation and poverty that drives this compassion, it is no surprise that you question the nature of happiness. But rolling up your sleeves can bring a sense of purpose, and it is this sense of purpose that is often what motivates people, and gives them that sense of achieving something, of taking some kind of control in an otherwise unpredictable world.
Practising self care and self compassion
It is undeniable that being happy can hep you on the path to becoming healthier. The flip side – being unhappy, has the opposite effect. If you’re unhappy, you’re more likely to self sabotage with a poor diet of fat and sugar which gives you short lived comfort that masks your pain. You are more likely to self medicate with alcohol or drugs, which then drag you down into a deeper spiral of despair.
The happier you are, the higher your self esteem, the more likely you are to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. That kindness manifests itself through eating better, resting more, getting a good night’s sleep – all simple everyday things that can lead to an overall greater sense of happiness.
Boosting your immune system
In a study of over 300 healthy people, the risk of developing a cold was assessed after them receiving a common cold nose drops. The results demonstrated that those who were least happy, were in fact three times more likely to develop a common cold compared to their happier colleagues.
The study of PNI – Psycho Neuro Immunology is widespread. This is the classic body-mind connection in which the strength of the mind is examined in relation to the effects it has on the body – and vice versa.
There are literally tens of thousands of studies and research papers which all highlight how one’s state of mind can have a significant impact on your physical wellbeing.
But can you really choose happiness?
The short answer is yes, you can. Now, if you were fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy, well adjusted family, surrounded by love and opportunities, with no worries about money or security, or putting food in your belly, then you chances of being happy are much higher than someone else who was born into much more trying circumstances.
Yet that does not mean that someone living in poverty cannot be happy. True happiness is a state of mind, a mindset, governed by an individual’s ability to create a greater sense of power and control over their circumstances, no matter what those circumstances are. An individual, for example, who is dying from cancer has the ability to look at their situation with brutal reality, and choose to be content with the time they have left.
It takes practice, but with practice comes perfection.