Want to feel younger and healthier? Being happy may help. Studies suggest that positive thinking can significantly improve physical and mental health. It’s not always easy to view the glass as half full, but with practice and persistence, you can cultivate a state of mind that will make you more appreciative of the good in life and more accepting of the bad.
The Happiness Placebo
What do you think of when you hear the term “placebo effect?” To many people, this term only has a negative connotation. While the word “placebo” may initially conjure up images of hypochondria and controversial medications, the phenomenon of placebo is actually rather useful. Many people have found that they can become happy simply by believing that they can be happy.
By working hard to obtain a mindset of happiness, you put yourself in a better position to face life’s challenges and to potentially live a longer, fuller life. While there is currently no way to prove causation as opposed to mere correlation, studies suggest that people who feel young may actually live longer, and that optimism may contribute to feeling young. And the obvious role that happiness plays in reducing stress, which has negative health effects, lends credence to this theory.
What does it mean to be happy? Most people don’t find happiness in a stable job, a large paycheck or even the fulfillment of their biggest goals. Instead, the greatest factor that determines happiness is acceptance: the ability to be content with your current situation. Maybe you don’t have as much in retirement savings as you would like. Maybe you never got to work at your dream job. Maybe you’re experiencing more physical pain than you did when you were younger. While all of these things are genuinely frustrating, they aren’t necessarily problems that happy people are immune to.
Happy people learn to live in the moment and accept the present situation as the only possible one. Statements that begin with “If only…” or “I wish” don’t often emerge from the happy person’s tongue. Learning to accept the negative parts of life is key to obtaining happiness. This mindset is conducive to better health and a more meaningful, enjoyable life.
Acceptance is the ability to deal with the negative events of life. The flip side of acceptance is gratitude, the ability to highlight the positive events. Studies suggest that practicing gratitude can strengthen the brain, improve sleep, and reduce pain. In fact, doing an activity as simple as making a daily list of what you are thankful for could significantly increase your quality of life. People who are appreciative of life’s gifts, whether those gifts be big or small, have a greater chance of being happy.
Choosing Thoughts Wisely
The human brain is selective. It chooses what information to process and what information to shrug off, what is worth thinking about and what is worth letting go of. By employing both acceptance and gratitude, you place a greater influence on the positive experiences than the negative, and cultivate a mindset that can lead to greater health and better quality of life. Learning to master your thoughts and steer clear of negativity will help you to view the world through a healthier lens.
Getting the Most out of Life
Of course, there are many things that lead to a greater quality of life. We know that eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding destructive habits are good for our well-being. But if you don’t train your brain to be accepting of your situation and appreciative of what you have, and if you don’t truly believe that you can be happy, then these healthy habits can only do so much to give you a meaningful life. Happiness isn’t an emotion that hits you at random. Rather, it is a state of mind that can be obtained through practice and intentionality. By practicing positive thinking, you allow yourself to get so much more out of life.