It's no secret that our health and our happiness or lack thereof are closely related. In fact, a happy state of mind is mandatory to a healthy body. You can't have one without the other.
If your mind is in a negative state, filled with fear, blame, guilt and all their resonating cousins, how do expect your body to reflect health? They are not separate entities. Try separating your mind/thoughts from your body. You can't.
That is a pretty convincing argument for the mind-body connection, don't you think?
For years, mainstream science rejected the idea that any psychological state, whether positive or negative, is empowered to affect physical wellbeing. However, ongoing studies revealed the brain and immune system are directly linked.
Truth is, health begins in a happy mind, because the mind is the creator. When the mind is happy and consistently engaged in positive thinking, the body follows suit. The body cannot experience what the mind is not expressing!
Dr Bradley Nelson, holistic chiropractor and author of The Emotion Code, states: "When we feel an emotion (positive or negative), what we are really feeling is the vibration of a particular energy."
So, when we feel negative emotions, we are opening our bodies to disease and pain and illness is the result.
For example: in a recent study, volunteers were exposed to the cold virus. Two weeks before the study began, their positive emotions such as feeling pleased and content were measured. Not surprisingly, when the study was over, the participants that displayed the happiest emotions before the test began were less likely to develop a cold.
Happiness is not something that comes to you or happens to you. It is a frame of mind, a personal choice, made and nurtured every moment of every day. Happy thoughts breed healthy habits. A happy mind exercises consistently, manages stress levels better and enjoys deeper sleep. All things that lead to greater health and stronger immunity.
The reality is, heart health, healthy stress levels, disease rates, the immune system and longevity of years are all positively affected by happy, stress-free thoughts.
Proper challenging exercise when practised long-term has been shown to cultivate positive, happy immune cells. Mindfulness, a technique that requires you to stay focused in the moment, is another method that helps counter negative thinking by nurturing a happier mental state through focus and attention on momentary sensory experiences such as breathing (the same way exercise has you focused on breathing). It is powerful for eliminating stress-induced inflammation.
As studies prove, happiness is more than just feeling good. Happiness is associated with a list of healthy benefits such as better relationships, stronger immunity and extended life. So, the next time you put on a "happy face" know that you are creating happy cells at the same time. Happy cells are healthy cells.
Bottom line is this: Mental health has a deep impact on overall functioning of the body. Stress and anxiety open the door to sickness, stroke, and diseases such as diabetes, while laughter is empowered to reduce stress hormones and support proper blood circulation.
Happiness, it seems, not only feels good, it gives valuable support to our bodily functions and a healthy boost to our immunity. It can be defined as an overall sense of satisfaction and contentment with life and living, a state of appreciation for all that you have, the understanding that every experience can bring growth, spiritual expansion and inner wealth, a perception of balance and peace, a feeling of being whole and complete within oneself.
We have all heard the saying "happiness comes from within" and just adding a couple of exercise sessions a week into your life is one of the most important things you can do to maintain physical, mental and emotional health. Your happiness level depends on a high level of health and wellness in all of these areas.
When you take the time to practise self-care in the form of proper exercise supported by healthy eating (ie unprocessed food) it has positive benefits for how you look, how you function, how you feel, how happy you are and contributes to the quality of your life.
Once your exercise programme becomes a habit you will start to notice the benefits, more strength, more fitness, more energy and above all, more happiness. You will soon be experiencing the number one reason why most people regularly go to the gym – "because it makes me feel good".
But it doesn't just happen. It does need some input and self-care practices to revive your health and happiness levels and keep it alive otherwise like everything that is neglected it just wastes away.
Yes, there is an inner athlete inside all of us just waiting to be unleashed. Can you see yourself as this fit, energetic, happy person? Your exercise programme can gradually become a passion.
Get your mindset right so you learn to love physical activity, make that passion yours so you can claim the inner peace and happiness rightfully yours.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner Anytime Fitness.