It is hard to enjoy truly good health if you are unhappy. Unhappiness, especially if it is prolonged and characterized by a negative attitude throughout your life, can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and poor eating, sleeping and exercise habits.
When we are not happy, everything can seem like a chore, including taking care of ourselves. Many people soothe their blues by indulging in unhealthy snacks, which just makes us feel sluggish and awful. When we are constantly stressed, it can be difficult to get enough sleep, meaning our brains and bodies do not get the rest that they need to properly function.
However, you can take control of your own happiness and begin enjoying a greater quality of life, if you make a few important changes, especially in perspective. While life situations occur that can upset us, our overall happiness is up to us – and if often starts with a simple smile.
This does not mean faking a smile and walking around with a mask-like grin on your face. It is about finding something in each situation to smile about. There is always a positive and a negative to every situation, and even if the negatives far outweigh the positives, you can find the silver lining and smile at it. Or, at least, you can laugh at the irony.
Another key point is learning not to take yourself too seriously. When we are constantly aggrandizing or criticizing every little thing we do, we tend to become quite down on ourselves, and it can lead to stress. If stress becomes chronic, it can lead to systemic inflammation, which can raise your risk of disease. So next time, if you do something you are not happy with, laugh it off, and make a mental note on what you can change next time.
Research has found that smiling really can predict future happiness. A 2011 study performed at the University of Virginia studied the Facebook profile photos of a group of male and female students in their first year of college. The participants were followed for 3.5 years, at which time they completed surveys regarding their satisfaction with life. The researchers found that the students who had the most “intense smiles” in their first-year photos were more likely to report higher life satisfaction near the end of their college experience.
The researchers noted that the intensity of smiles in the participants’ first-year photos was correlated to better social relationships. Other research has tied happiness to strong social relationships, as well. The famous Harvard Grant Study, which followed a group of male participants for over 75 years, found that those who were more likely to live until age 80, and report high happiness levels, were those who had strong social bonds.
So, instead of thinking your unhappiness is “just the way you are,” get out and do something about it. Take a class in an activity you’ve always wanted to learn but never tried. Sign up for a yoga class or kickboxing workshop: not only can you make new friends, you’ll also be getting your cardio exercise – a proven form of stress relief. Or, volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. Helping others has been found to make us happier, as well.
Most importantly, make the decision to always find something to smile about, and share that smile with those around you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel – physically and mentally.
-The Alternative Daily