Article first published in Blogcritics
We can’t deny it. It’s the season where more people are driven to finding happiness and being happy. In our daily life activities, what does this mean? For many people, happiness and satisfaction are thought to come from external events affecting them. But recent studies indicate that much of true satisfaction and well-being come from within, and that one is not born happy or unhappy – it is mostly a developed or a learned trait.
How can that be? We get a glimpse of how in a study by Professor Emmons, U.C. Davis Psychologist and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has found that “those who regularly practice grateful thinking improved their happiness score by 25%. Since being grateful improves one’s happiness, so do these same qualities reportedly have a positive affect on one’s health.”
In a recent lecture by Dr. Andrew Weil, noted leader in integrated medicines, he described the term “infectious happiness” as an emotion that can spread from person to person. Weil further stated, “that there is no question that who you choose to associate with can raise or lower your spirits, make you happy or sad, calm or anxious, comfortable or uncomfortable.” These are qualities that translate directly to being healthy or unhappy and these infectious happiness qualities can be quantified. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, one finding was that if a person lives less than ½ mile from a happy friend, he would have a 42% greater chance of being happy. This same infectious happiness can ripple through groups and organizations and has a profound effect on the happiness of those individuals.
Along with happiness, Weil spoke about the resultant health that can be achieved. Particularly interesting were Weil’s references to health in terms that place the individual in charge of his own health. He suggested that a good way to improve one’s health was simply choosing to be with people who exemplify the lifestyle you wish to emulate – that who you spend your time with is important. He also commented that the stem word for medicine means to meditate. This places medicine and health squarely on thought.
Where is this headed? According to Weil and Emmons, our health is enriched if we make choices that involve meditative, grateful, joyous, and thoughtful lifestyles. What is interesting is that many of these ideas were expressed by writers of an earlier period. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures wrote, “Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech.”
Evidence continues to mount that thought affects the body, especially qualities like gratitude, which researchers see as a rapidly growing field of study. Improved health and happiness may result more from spirituality and the mind than from drug-based traditional western medicine.