The Science of Happiness
Choosing to be happy and optimistic is arguably one of the quickest and easiest ways to make a positive impact on your health! In order to see what happens in your body when you're happy, let's start by talking about what happens when you're unhappy or angry.
Being angry or sad activates your sympathetic nervous system causing a number of chemicals to be released in your body that do things like increase your heart rate, increase you respiratory rate, cause your adrenal glands (small glands on your kidneys) to release adrenaline and cortisol (among other things). These depress your immune system, making you more likely to get sick. Additionally, these chemicals can cause you to have trouble sleeping and if you have a tendency to be in an angry, sad or stressed state of mind quite frequently, they can also cause you to gain weight and make you more sensitive to feeling pain (again, among other things).
Being "chronically" happy has quite the opposite effect on your body! The hormones and chemicals that are released can boost your immune system, actually making you less likely to get sick. They can also cause you to feel relaxed and calm, and actually become less sensitive to feeling pain. Studies have also shown that happier people tend to live longer. This is likely due in part to the effect that long-term stress (associated with being angry often) has on your body.
What could be better than that? Just one thing - happiness IS contagious! If you have a positive attitude and interact with other individuals, you can pass this positive energy on to them as well! Initiating physical contact - hugs and kisses for example - causes both individuals involved to release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone released from the pituitary gland in the brain that is most popularly known for its role in pregnancy and childbirth. However, it's release also evokes feelings of calm and relaxation. Additionally, oxytocin has been shown to decrease inflammation and speed up the healing process.
Here is a little something you can do to get you started. Implementing this philosophy and utilizing it as part of your daily routine has the power to seriously transform the way you live your life.
Realize that you are the only person who has the power to control your happiness. Happiness is a state of mind that is crafted solely on how you respond to your environment and the actions of others. Although you may feel like other people make you angry or situations outside of your control make you unhappy, reframing your thinking can have a huge impact on how you interact with the world. Accepting that certain situations and certain actions of others are out of your control, and realizing that you have the power to make your own happiness will allow you to live more calmly and pass this positive energy on to others in your life.
Dr. Alesha Fleming
Natural Health and Wellness Chiropractic, LLC
Daytona Beach, FL