“The greatest wealth is Health.” ~Unknown
There is no doubt that the state of your health has an overall impact to the state of your happiness.
As I sit here I’m loaded up on painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs and I’m feeling quite ‘foggy’ in the head and generally feeling pretty average! Last Thursday I went into hospital to have tonsillectomy, septoplasty and bilateral turbinectomy. 3 big terms for simply getting your tonsils out and enhancing breathing ability through the nose! 🙂
One week in and the pain lingers on. The surgery has been long overdue as I had chronic tonsillitis back in 2005 and have had difficulty breathing through my nose for my whole life, but better late than never I say! And I’m super-glad I’ve done it.
The health effects are prominent though and what better way to bring it all to life then to get someone in to talk about the science behind some of the straight-forward healthy lifestyle choices we should all be making.
I’d like to introduce you to Mans Denton who writes on wellness over at The Hacked Mind. As you all know, I love hard facts and science behind everything and that’s what Mans gets to bring to you today.
I can’t wait to be able to get back into the gym, start eating some fresh fruit and vegetables and start getting some painless sleep again! We all take it for granted but when it’s taken from you you really get to appreciate what this world offers in its simplicity.
Without further adieu, let me introduce you to Mans to take you through 3 Scientific Health Tips for Increasing Your Happiness. Take it away Mans!
Partaking in events or games that you love, spending time with loved ones, and pursuing your passions are all ways to increase your happiness, but none are the true start of happiness.
The basic building blocks of happiness lie in the biology and chemistry of the brain. Hormones and neurotransmitters govern your happiness levels from a scientific perspective and while your conscious thoughts and actions can alter how they interact with each other, your health decisions can be most important. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise routine and relaxation practices can create balance your hormones and neurotransmitters helping to promote happiness in the brain at the most basic level.
As the age old saying goes – “you are what you eat” and this still certainly holds true… in fact, I don’t think it will ever change!
The most important factor in balancing hormones and neurotransmitters to promote happiness is the food that you eat. Hectic schedules, responsibilities, and stress make it difficult to maintain a good diet. Ironically, when you do not maintain a good diet, your level of stress increases and your happiness declines even further.
Many mood disorders, such as depression, are strongly linked to a lack of healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in eggs, fish, olive oil, coconut oil, and other foods, are incredibly important for your brain to stay healthy and function properly.
In contrast, eating too many refined carbohydrates and sugars result in higher serotonin levels in the brain, which offers a temporary burst of energy followed by a debilitating crash. Furthermore, the refined carbohydrates increase the level of cortisol in your body, which is a stress hormone. Elevated levels of cortisol will make it harder to relax and maintain a happy disposition.
Here are a few dietary changes that you can make in order to promote a healthy balance of hormones in your brain to ensure happiness on a basic level:
- Reduce or remove refined sugar and carbohydrates from your diet. Get more carbohydrates from vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and fruits, rather than from bagels, pasta, and bread.
- Eat the right kinds of fat. Grass-fed meat, eggs, fish, olive oil and coconut oil are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fried foods are full of unhealthy fats that will make your brain produce more stress hormones rather than happy hormones.
- Get a variety of colors and types. Eating purple, orange, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits is a healthy way to receive all the different types of anti-oxidants that make your brain happy by removing toxins.
- Eat darker chocolate. It is rich in anti-oxidants, but only at higher levels of dark chocolate. I eat 88% now, but you are probably safe with 70% and over.
- Replace all beverages with more water. My younger sister becomes incredibly moody and unhappy when she does not drink enough water. Whether it is genetics or not, your body needs lots of water
Your exercise and relaxation methods are also incredibly important for the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain and the happiness you experience as a result. When you exercise moderately, you will increase the level of dopamine in your brain, which is science for making you feel happier. You will also increase testosterone, which can increase your brain function and lead to feelings of euphoria as well.
However, exercising too much (such as triathlon or long distance cardiovascular exercise) can lead to excessive cortisol in the body, which promotes stress and decreases happiness. Therefore, it is a good idea to balance exercise by infrequently exercising very hard, taking plenty of rest, and walking as much as you can.
Relaxation is also an important part of fueling happiness within your brain and body. Whatever method you use to relax will help to reduce the cortisol levels in your body so that it has a better balance with the dopamine and other happy hormones. I prefer to perform meditation or mindfulness, which helps to calm down my nervous system. Here are a few ways to add relaxation to your day to balance the stressful and happy hormones:
- Go for a walk outside. This will not only help you exercise, but also remove you from technology in order to relax.
- Take frequent breaks to close your eyes and be mindful of your breath.
- Go outside and play a game that you enjoy
- Spend time with friends in a comfortable atmosphere
Finally, in order to ensure you are happy, you must get enough sleep. While the number of hours each person needs will vary, it is important to try to get around 7 – 8 hours a day. Getting enough sleep will decrease cortisol levels and ensure that you feel focused, alert, and happy for the entire day.
Fuel Your Happiness
Everything that you do has an effect on the hormones and neurotransmitters within your brain. Playing with your dog can make you happy, but that is because it increases dopamine production in the brain and reduces your cortisol. Understanding the basic biology and chemistry of your own brain can help you understand howto take care of your body. This will keep you one-step ahead when seeking happiness in your everyday life.
Mans Denton is a wellness blogger focused on achieving success and happiness through a healthy diet, exercise regimen, and meditation. He is also an entrepreneur, biohacker, and traveler. Check out his musings at The Hacked Mind.