Monday, June 17, 2019

From Sixty and Me - Happiness: the Key to Good Health in the Years of Maturity

Last week I had lunch with a dear friend who later texted me, apologizing for having spent most of our time together moaning and groaning about various things going on in her life. She hoped she hadn’t been a drain on me.

I texted her back that no, she hadn’t. On the contrary, I value our friendship and appreciate our being able to share whatever’s going on in our respective lives. That made me happy.

Not happy, of course, that my friend is going through a rough patch, but happy that we can talk about such things, support each other, be there for one another. And certainly not happy as in jumping for joy, but satisfied, content, pleased with our friendship and our sharing.

Happiness Is Good for Your Health

Happy comes in many different shapes and colors, but here’s the thing. Regardless of what makes you happy, whether it’s the content/satisfied version or the jumping-for-joy version, happiness has a direct and unmistakable impact on your health.

Extensive research – over 150 studies – show that happiness, what scientists like to call “subjective well-being,” supports better cardiovascular health, a well-functioning immune system, faster healing from wounds, and lower likelihood of getting colds or the flu.

How do we get there? What if your finances are less than wonderful, your health imperfect, your family annoying, your work life disappointing? Or worse? Where’s the happiness in any of that?
It’s not. So don’t look there.

Watch for the Tide

Happiness isn’t an all-or-nothing experience. Happiness, for most of us, comes and goes. The more aware we are of what makes happiness come, so to speak, the more we can tune in to those events or situations.

For example, my friend loves to watch tennis on TV. No matter what else is going on in her life, she can lose herself and forget about her problems while watching a tennis match. For that time, she is happy.

For me, it’s dance. No matter how dreadful my day, no matter how awful some part of my current experience may be, I will come out of a dance class uplifted and happy.

For others, such as Jean Bailey, it’s volunteering. At 98, she could sit at home by herself, but that’s not what makes Jean happy. She’s been volunteering at Methodist Women’s Hospital since she turned 62, escorting patients to scans and offering assistance to RNs and techs wherever she can be of service.

Jean doesn’t volunteer for the recognition, although she recently received the Methodist Health System’s “honorary lifetime V.I.P. Award” for her greatly appreciated and valuable service.
Jean volunteers because she enjoys people. It makes her happy. Her “happy” certainly supports her being healthy, as her spry 98 years show.

What makes you happy may be simple, like diving into a good book, or more involved, like kayaking. It doesn’t matter. Find something – find several things – that make you happy no matter what, and engage in those activities as often as possible.

With that, you will enjoy the health that your happiness brings.

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