Happiness Is Contagious and Healthy by Joan Upton

It seems that researchers have found happiness to be contagious –and actually life saving. Have you been paying attention to all of the published reports about medical studies that have focused on heart health and the deep, biological connection between it and our psyche? Here’s the good news: the more cheer you allow and develop in your life, actually enhances the health of your heart.

Now this isn’t just tidbits of fun information presented to you by a “Pollyanna” mind –though, after reading this article, you may feel compelled to adopt the Pollyanna attitude of staying positive. This is from scientific studies –lots of them, that are proving time and time again that our attitude can effect real change in our bodies.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published a study that revealed a link between happiness and a variety of health markers in more than 200 adults, both men and women. The researchers evaluated the participants during both work days and weekend days, assessing criteria that included blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and inflammation which can be a precursor to heart disease. The happiest people fared as the healthiest people.

“Our findings indicate that positive affective states are related to favorable profiles of functioning in several biological systems and may thereby be relevant to risk of development of physical illness,” the study reports.

According to the study, the happiest participants had the lowest levels of cortisol, their hearts kept a peaceful rate and they remained more calm during a mental stress test. Now that’s something to smile about.

Researchers have also been discovering the optimistic effects of surrounding yourself with happy, positive people. Guess what? Seems just being around a good attitude can provoke you into having one. “Whether you’re happy depends not just on your own actions and behaviors and thoughts, but on those of people you don’t even know,” according to Nicholas Christakis, a professor of sociology at Harvard.

So during this Valentine month, consider being your own Valentine by upping your happiness quotient. Show yourself the love. Be your own cheerleader. You’ll be boosting your health, your self esteem and your outlook on life. Here are a few suggestions to make being happy an every moment thing.

1. Just act happy. The law of attraction bears repeating over and over again: like attracts like. Hence, happiness attracts happiness. Notice people smiling at you more because you’re smiling more at them.

2. Walk, run, dance, jump rope, garden –move your body. Exercise directly affects your central nervous system. Energy levels increase. Depression moves away. And no one has ever complained about the added bonus of a leaner body.

3. Keep your thoughts and words positive, especially when you talk about yourself and your life. Don’t lie about the circumstances of your life, just focus on what’s working and what’s improving.

4. Give thanks for all that you have and consider all of the non-material things first. Be grateful for health, family, friends, pets, talents, nature… Start a gratitude journal and write down three things every day that you’re thankful for. Watch the good multiply.

5. Sleep. Nothing is more restorative to the body and mind than a peaceful night’s sleep. Your body both repairs and rests and your mind offers you dreams and insights for creativity and happiness.

6. Do work that uses your skills. Nothing feels more rewarding than doing a job/assignment that allows you to bring forth your talent and natural ability.

7. Make your rolodex your ministry. In other words, nurture your friendships, family, romantic relationships. Remember that as you get happier, the people around you get happier.

“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years – we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” Sharon Salzberg.

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