How Happiness and Mindfulness help our Health

Of course, everyone wants to be happy, who doesn’t but it’s about so much more than this. Through the science of Positive Psychology we can use Happiness not only improve our lives, our businesses our productivity but also our health. This is a timely blog for me as I have been working with a health coach and improving my physical health alongside my more 'mental health aspects' and I have seen real crossover in both.

Traditionally psychology (and medical culture unfortunately) kind of focuses on a bit of lack mindset unfortunately, what is wrong with people, how do we fix them, what is wrong with situations. It is very much ingrained within our society. Its playing out very much at the moment, as well as lack and what’s not working there is also a lot of fear.

Fear is a very easy state for the human body because our brains have been designed in a way that protects us from harm, they are ready to look for danger and protect us from being attacked by that imaginary tiger. Yes, the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined danger.

So as we sit and watch the news, scroll the news app on our phones or listen to recycled news from our friends and family…yep you guessed it, the fight or flight response reacts in the brain and guess what happens then? Because our resources are focused on fighting or run away, everything else shuts down, including our immune system, making us far more likely to be susceptible to illness.

So yes the news is making you sick, the fear in society at the moment is making you sick, people who trigger your fight/flight response are making you sick…

However there is a different way, we can absolutely do something about this and it all starts with turning this fear response around.

Positive Psychology flips this all on its head and is based on the latest neuroscience and research around when we focus on what is right rather than wrong. We look at how we can elevate our levels of positive emotion and this releases amazing happy chemicals in our brain, fuelling our brain and giving it energy, reducing our fight/flight mechanism and enabling us to be creative, innovative and productive as a result.

It also very importantly shuts down the fight/flight response, the brain cannot be happy and fearful at the same time, we are actually hacking our brains to move us away from the fear response and into really useful responses which give us the ability to strengthen our immune system as well as a whole host of other benefits.

In the past I have experienced this fear response first hand, I used to have such high levels of anxiety that my immune system was compromised, I used to get tonsillitis a few times a year and IBS. When I learned and applied Mindfulness and Positive Psychology to my life it all changed.

So with Mindfulness as we are building present moment awareness we can notice the first niggle of the fear response coming in (i.e tight chest, heart pounding) and we can stop and breathe and bring in self kindness, thinking about the mindful action step we may want to take to be kind to ourselves and give that fear response the chance to switch off and our bodies the chance to be well and healthy. We can also notice the first signs of feeling unwell, I know for me I will notice the first niggle of a sore throat and will head to the vitamin C very quickly!

So what are the practical ways you can bring these happiness habits into your life? (These will really shift you if you dedicate time to them, I promise!)

In TEDx I talk about these and they come from the research of Shawn Achor which I’ve completed my own research on and seen dramatic results.

So we are basically looking at ways to bring positive emotion into your life, tapping into joy, choosing joy every day. As we now know this is not just a self-care or nice thing to do there is a responsibility to do this for our friends, family, clients and the world and even just our health!

This could be as simple as flipping into gratitude every day, with gratitude thinking of 3 things you are grateful for every day has been shown to massively shift positive emotion and even be more powerful than antidepressants. This can be a big thing you are grateful for or a small thing such as a cup of tea! Its doesn’t matter, its getting into this thinking that’s important creating new brain pathways for happiness (a bit like the pathway through the woods I talk about in TEDx!). As we flood the brain with gratitude the fight/flight response shuts down and we give our immune system a chance without the increased cortisol.

With Mindfulness this can help to build our awareness of both positive and negative emotions and think about what we need to process or heal with the negative emotions.

I found in a recent Mindfulness programme it actually shifted the way people worked, improved their relationships and one client looking to lose weight actually cancelled her weight loss programme as Mindful eating had far more powerful results! This was because the body stores more fat when we are in a fear state and we eat when we are stressed. My transforming the mindful eating experience you not only lose weight potentially through processing food better but give your health a huge boost too!

The minimum amount of time to benefit from Mindfulness is 6 minutes and Marines were shown to have dramatic impacts on their focus in the field after 12 minutes of Mindfulness. Where do you have 6 minutes in your day? Where could you fit this in?

What could you achieve with more brain fuel? If this resonates with you and you would like to incorporate happiness habits into your life and business and really start to make this shifts in your own life please get in touch.

P.s Please stop watching the news! Go to reputable sources to find out information and stop feeding your fear response, do it at least for your health!

If you have any questions or want to know more please get in touch

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