Better living through happiness
“Happier people tend to be healthier,” says David Sobel, MD, medical director of Health Education for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.
Happier people are more successful at work, have better relationships, are more creative, and have fewer stress hormones. They also tend to have more energy, get more exercise, have better immune function, sleep better, and even live longer.
“The good news,” explains Dr. Sobel, “is that about 40 percent of happiness comes from things within our control: thoughts, feelings, plans, and activities.”*
So indulge yourself in healthy pleasures. Spend time outdoors, walk the dog, play with your kids, savor good food, relax to your favorite music, or volunteer.
What if you just can’t get happy? “Momentary periods of sadness are a natural, healthy part of life,” says Dr. Sobel. “Plus, the holiday season can be especially difficult for some people.”
But if sadness tips toward depression, it’s time to ask for help. Signs of depression include feeling down or hopeless; changes in sleep, appetite, or energy level; and a loss of interest in activities, friends, or family for most of the day, on most days, or for more than two weeks.
Kaiser Permanente members:
- To download guided imagery programs, podcasts, and videos, visit Healthy Living Resources on your doctor’s home page. You can also access our interactive Online Health Coach from your doctor’s home page.
- Check out our free online programs, including the stress-relieving HealthMedia® Relax™.
* Sheldon Cohn and Sarah D. Pressman, “Positive affect and Health,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 15(3) (2006): 122–25.
Kenneth M. Sheldon and Sonia Lyubomirski, “Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: change your actions not your circumstances,” Journal of Happiness Studies 7 (2006): 55–86.
Kenneth M. Sheldon and Sonia Lyubomirski, “Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?),” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 1/1 (2007): 129–45.