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Happiness, Optimism and Health


Happiness – the word conjures up many images and different scenarios for each of us. When you hear the word happiness what are the first three words/images that you conjure up? Are they linked with feelings in the present moment or are they images/words to do with specific ‘ideals’ or ‘events? E.g. does happiness to you mean holidays or shopping for a special item? Or do you think being safe at home, a cup of tea, reading a book or walking in nature are examples of true happiness?

Planning happiness rather than being happy

Learning to be happy now rather than planning for happiness when circumstances permit is the key to being happy (or at least content) in most situations. Many of us plan to be happy i.e.

  • “I’ll be happy when….”

  • “I’ll be happy when I’ve lost a bit of weight”

  • “I’ll be happy when I can get back to normal”

For those Living in the future it will feel increasingly difficult to find peace in the current climate, with so many restrictions on our normal way of life we are having to adapt to a situation beyond our control and how we respond to that can have a big impact on our physical and mental well-being.

It can feel at times (especially at the moment) that there is not much to feel very happy about especially for those who tend to ‘plan happiness’ rather than ‘live happy’.

That may seem like a big ask, particularly in the current climate but for the sake of our physical and mental health, the ability to live in the moment and see happiness in everyday situations is crucially important. I don’t mean that I expect everyone to go around smiling inappropriately in sad or stressful situations but happiness can be found even in the darkest or most stressful times with those who are able to see it tending to be healthier and even live longer.

Happiness does not come to you it comes from you and we can help that by having a positive influence on our biology – let’s take a little look at the Science of happiness as yes there is a biological link with happiness!

The biology of happy

People who are more optimistic have a faster cortisol response, meaning they recover more rapidly after a stressful situation. It doesn’t make them any less susceptible to stressful situations but if you witness any group of people in a stressful situation some will be calmer and recover faster than others.

On a biological level this is healthier as the stress hormone Cortisol is lowered and hormone levels return to normal. For those who don’t recover as quickly or who dwell on the stressful situation the cortisol levels remain elevated and the body remains in a heightened state of anxiety. Over time this depletes the immune function and overall physical and mental health of the individual.

A positive inner voice

It can be very hard to change your inner voice, we either have a positive voice creating positive automatic thoughts or we have a negative voice creating automatic negative thoughts. There’s a belief called the ‘Cognitive Triad’ (Beck’s Cognitive Triad) used to investigate depression and negative thoughts. The theory behind this is that thoughts trigger emotions and feelings which in turn lead to actions and behaviours. The principle of this theory being that our thoughts are in charge! It’s important we try to have a positive inner voice as this will have a much better influence on our health than a negative voice.

Nutritional Influences

Of course, one of the ways we can support our biology to promote internal happiness is via the foods we eat. Nutrition should never be underestimated in terms of its’ influence on our overall physical and mental health. The foods we eat go on a ‘journey’ where they alter our body at a cellular level and impact on every single decision, movement and emotion we have. Via eating the right food, we can create ‘happy molecules’

Happiness does not come to you it comes from within you and we can help that by having a positive influence on our biology.

Keep an eye on the social media this month for happiness foods and the latest podcasts.

Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist

Personal Trainer

Early Years Nutrition Consultant

Award-winning Author

Food & Health Writer

Presenter on Early Years TV Food

Keynote speaker

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