We have all heard that a merry heart is a good medicine. But what exactly does that mean? It’s fun to share a good laugh, and it’s contagious. When you live a joyful life, your entire body benefits - especially your heart and your mind. Research from Columbia University Medical Centre in New York shows that joyful people have smaller chances of having heart attacks and are more likely to have healthier blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight management, and decreased stress levels. Humor and laughter also strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy levels, and helps diminish pain.
Researchers studied 1,739 healthy adults over 10 years to find out if what they call "positive affectivity" could affect a person’s risk of heart disease, their feelings of hostility and anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and contentment. What they found was that over the decade, increased positivity lowered risks of heart disease by about a fifth, looking at each point on a five-point scale measuring levels of happiness, ranging from "none" to "extreme". Those who had no positive affect were at a 22% higher risk of heart disease than those with a small positive affect, who were themselves at a 22% higher risk than those with moderate positive affect. The findings considered age, sex, and heart-associated risk factors.
In our consumer-driven society, we’ve put too much emphasis on having physical things—bigger houses, better cars, the latest in fashion. But in reality, there are two main ingredients for experiencing joy every day. The first is living in the present. The second is gratitude.
- Laugh — did you know that a good laugh relieves physical tension leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes?
- Prepare your meals mindfully, and eat slowly to fully enjoy the benefits.
- Pay a compliment to a total stranger.
- Discover a new smell in the form of spices, flowers, candles, essential oil.
- Declutter and get rid of stuff! Take the things you are no longer using to a homeless shelter.
- Meditate and enjoy the silence — think of the things in your life that you are most grateful for today.
- Play like a child — go barefoot and allow yourself to get messy playing in the mud.
- Lose yourself in a great book with your favorite cup of tea.
- Play your favorite song and sing out loud.
- Dress for success — a sharply dressed person stands out from the crowd.
Learn to fill your life with joy for better health and well-being. Start by incorporating more humor and laughter into your daily life. Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate more joy into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything you do.