What is happiness? I recently went to see the movie ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’, based on the book by French psychiatrist Francois Lelord, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which got me thinking about the link between health and happiness.

Throughout the centuries, people have been talking about what happiness is, and how to find it. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that –

Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence“.

Hedonistic? Maybe, but I totally agree with Aristotle, our lives would be quite meaningless without happiness. Mahatma Ghandi said –

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony“.

My understanding of this is that when you act according to your core values, you will be at your most happiest. Our core values are what is important or meaningful to us. We can often lose touch with these due to the distractions and demands of modern society.

And surprisingly wise words from Groucho Marx –

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it

showing us that how we think about events and respond to them can make us happy or unhappy.

Studies have shown that happiness, or positive emotion, can be linked to living a longer life. Optimism is also linked to longevity. An optimist believes that good events happen to them because they deserve it, and don’t blame themselves if bad things happen. They also believe that more good things will happen to them in the future. Optimism and pessimism are learned behaviours, and the good news is that you can actually learn to be more optimistic (see http://stress.about.com/od/optimismspirituality/ht/optimisthowto.htm).

So it is important to give yourself a pat on the back when you’ve achieved something, whether that be big or small. Even getting through a busy week of juggling work, children and getting in a couple of exercise sessions should be recognised as an achievement! Positive affirmations (statements that can, when repeated, re-train your subconscious mind) can also be helpful, and they can be as simple as “I am happy and healthy” (see http://stress.about.com/od/optimismspirituality/a/positiveaffirms.htm) for more.

There is also  evidence to show that unhappiness – depression, anxiety & stress – are linked to poorer health, and these mental states can reduce immunity and increase inflammation in the body, resulting in a number of different health conditions or disease. So there is a direct relationship between mental and physical health.

I myself am most happy when I feel balanced and focused. One of the things that helps me feel this way is when I see that I have helped someone to be healthier and happier.
I also find flower essences, kinesiology, massage, essential oils, music, walking my dog in the park, and time with family and friends also make me happy. These things might also make you feel happy, or they may be other things for you, such being good at your job, having time for a hobby you enjoy, giving to others, or working on your house and garden. Whatever it is, it’s good to have a think about what values drive you to do what you do. And whether your goals, both short and long-term, are in alignment with these values.

But sometimes we need help to find out what these values are, and treatments such as counselling, kinesiology, flower essences, hypnotherapy, meditation, or life coaching, can help us to do this.

I would like to leave you one last, lovely quote –

As you travel on life’s ways, with its many ups and downs, remember it’s quite true to say, one smile is worth a dozen frowns. Among the world’s expensive things, a smile is very cheap. And when you give a smile away, you get one back to keep” – Author Unknown.

So keep smiling.

Michelle is an Acupuncturist, Naturopath & Sfef Kinesiologist with a background in social work. You can find out more about Michelle at www.essentialsforhealth.com.au or see her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/essentialsforhealth.com.au.