Donʼt Worry; Be Happy—It Will Probably Make You Healthier, Too

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Are you an irrepressible optimist? Do you know someone whose mood tends to be low, and goes downhill from there? Research suggests that the cause of these personality differences is probably half genetics, half choice.

And that the glass-half-full person is likely healthier in body, as well as mind.

Studies of identical twins who were separated at birth led to some noteworthy findings. Approximately 50% of our happiness may be preset by our DNA, it claims, meaning we have a genetic “happiness set point.” While life’s ups and downs certainly influence our emotions, the research contends we will eventually recover to our predetermined set point.

On the flip side, it says the other 50% of the happiness is all about attitude. It’s not life’s problems (or lack thereof) that determine our ultimate happiness; it’s how we relate to setbacks. Additionally, these studies show that environmental factors, such as how much money we have and where we live, have little affect on our overall happiness.

In studies where there was a money-happiness correlation, it seemed to be true only to the point of $75,000 per household, leading researchers to speculate contentment was about having enough money to do what matters most to our emotional well-being— such as spending time with people we like, and avoiding pain and disease.

So, what does being happy have to do with being healthy? Quite a bit, according to a review of 200 studies that showed a connection between positive psychological attributes and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

Laura Kubzansky of the Harvard School of Public Health explained that people who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. Therefore, normal body weight and healthier blood fat profiles also correlate to a better sense of well-being.

Some researchers have found an even more direct link, such as optimism being associated with lower levels of inflammation, and that people who report enjoying life more are less likely to develop a disability over an eight-year period.

If you’re wondering what steps you can take to improve your happy/healthy outcome, try practicing mindfulness. It turns out that focusing on being present in the moment, helping others, and finding reasons to be grateful really are keys to happiness.

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Here’s something that tends to make people in our region happier and healthier: Medac provides excellent care at four convenient Wilmington locations. Our Military Cutoff, Porters Neck and Monkey Junction locations are open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and the Shipyard Boulevard location is the area’s only urgent care that is open until 11 p.m.