Can a smile a day keep the doctor away?
Being happy and healthy are two important credentials for a good, long life, right? But did you know that the two go hand-in-hand?
Researchers, from the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at a correlation of scientific studies that all showed that psychological and physical well-being truly are connected. One connection in particular showed that when a person has a positive attitude and happy way of living, they have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
But researchers point out that simply being happy does not mean you are immune to heart problems or other ailments. Researchers said that if a person has a good sense of well-being then it will simply be easier for them to maintain good health habits such as exercising and making healthy eating choices.
Lead researcher, Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health said, in a statement, “People who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors because they perceive them as helpful in achieving their goals.”
Researchers also found that having a good sense of well-being results in lower blood pressure, normal body weight and healthier blood fat profiles.
The review, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, does not provide confirmation of cause and effect; however, many researchers believe a positive state of mind does have a direct effect on the human body by helping to reduce long-lasting, damaging effects. Another study, led by Kubzanky, showed lower levels of inflammation in people who were shown to live an optimistic lifestyle.
Further supporting the positive correlation between body and mind, a group of researchers from the University College London (UCL) conducted a study with more than 3,000 people over the age of 60, and the results showed those who enjoyed life less were more likely to develop a disability over an eight-year period.
“The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age,” said Dr. Andrew Steptoe, researcher of the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “They are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living such as dressing or getting in or out of bed, and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less.”
“Patients who experience regular laughter and love actually have higher levels of endorphins, our body’s pleasure hormones,” Dr. Groen explains. “These endorphins have positive effects on stress levels, heart health, and even our immune system.”
Dr. Groen says she’s also seen the connection between spirituality and optimal health.
“I have always been surprised, too, by how prayer can improve one’s health,” Dr. Groen says. “It will be interesting to see what future research reveals about the amazing mind-body connection.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.