February 2008 - Protecting Your Heart With Happiness
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With Valentines just around the corner, we often focus on matters of the heart. What does happiness and heart health have in common? A lot! Some of you may have seen the heart warming movie: “Patch Adams” a few years ago with Robin Williams. It was the true story about how a medical student (Robin Williams) wanted to bring happiness to patients to help them heal. The Dean of the school of medicine actually wrote a complaint in Patch Adams’ student files that he displayed “excessive happiness”. Is there really such a thing as excessive happiness? I say not!
Perhaps there should be a stronger focus on maximizing the population’s happiness, as findings showed happiness can lead to lower levels of a potentially dangerous stress chemical in the body.
In fact, happier people may be healthier both mentally and physically, compared to less happy people.
According to a study, when happier people experience stress, they have lower levels of plasma fibrinogen, a chemical in their bloodstream that indicates the presence of inflammation, thus an indicator of heart health.
Something to Smile About
The study involved 116 men and 100 women (ages 35-55) who were taking part in a major study on the various risk factors for coronary heart disease. Researchers carried out tests on the participants in three different settings: at work, in the laboratory, and during leisure periods. Participants were asked whether or not they were happy at 33 moments during the day – researchers then evaluated how often people were happy in the course of the day.
The results were adjusted according to gender, age, employment status, weight, smoking habits and psychological stress. Moreover, levels of the stress hormone cortisol – linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and autoimmune disease – were found to be 32% lower in people who reported more happy moments.
What researchers found particularly interesting, though, was that the association between happiness and biological responses was separate from psychological distress.
BBC News, April 18, 2005
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
So the bottom line is, be happy! Each day, try to find things that make you genuinely truly feel happy. The choice is yours. You can focus on what upsets you, what’s wrong or missing, or those things that bring joy and nurture you.
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