What determines our happiness? (Part 1)

In our previous article we delved into different definitions of happiness and what creates happiness in one's life. You can read that article here. In this follow up we begin looking at different determinants of happiness.

#1 Putting Your Health First

Many studies have illustrated time and time again the importance of good health on happiness and spending a longer time on the Earth. Having good health doesn’t mean that you need to have a six-pack, only eat vegetables and exercise twice daily. Ultimately, good health is about having balance; balance between all the key pillars in your life: exercise and fitness, family and social relationships, work commitments, business, personal hobbies, relaxation and downtime. When life becomes too abundant in any one of these pillars that all the others begin to suffer then there is likely to be a sequential increase in stress that will subsequently have a negative impact on one’s health, and therefore their happiness too. In more recent years stress has been researched in a lot more depth, with studies showing that stress is not simply just a state of mind, but something that is both measurable and dangerous. In the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) most recent study (2016) on the top 10 causes of death in upper middle income countries; ischemic heart disease was number one, followed by stroke, then chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Unsurprisingly all three of these conditions can be linked to high stress levels. But what is the link?

When an individual is subjected to high levels of stress, inflammatory cytokines are chemicals released by the immune system activating armies of cells to attack invaders such as viruses, pathogenic bacteria, or cancer. The problem is that our immune system can be over-activated and lead to autoimmune disease. Most modern chronic diseases, including atherosclerosis and depressive disorders are associated with elevations in these cytokines, elevations in autoimmunity, and diseases that linger and are difficult to eradicate and treat. The connection is confirmed by many other studies linking a history of trauma (all sorts) to elevations in cytokines. In simple terms, high levels of stress can lead not only to depression, but put high pressure on the heart, which if it becomes chronic can damage our brains and musculature.

#2 - Regular Exercise

It is no surprise to the human race that regular exercise is one of the key antecedents of good health and happiness. Adding aerobic exercise to your daily routine also is important in dealing with stress. It gets the blood moving, improves the cardiovascular system, rejuvenates the body with plenty of fresh oxygen and aids sleep. Aerobic exercise is also one of the best anti-inflammatory's out there, mitigating the adverse effects of prolonged stress and inflammation on the immune system, heart and lungs.

But it is not just the benefits of aerobic exercise that help to lower stress levels. It is ALL physical activity that provides the individual with a buzz. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.

Hopefully you found this article useful, come back to the website next week when we will be posting part 2 of the article. Don't forget to share.

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