09 Jul Pillar of the Body
How often do we think that the way we take care of our body dictates both our health and happiness today, tomorrow and into the future?
When we go to the grocery store we aren’t thinking about the over 100,000 chemical reactions our body is doing every second. And the food you put into your body is affecting every one of these. Felicia Jack found a healthy diet significantly increased the happiness in a group of depressed people. Our sense of well-being is increased when we eat fruits and vegetables. Those who choose to eat regular, healthy meals that include fruits and vegetable are also happier.
When we turn to diets high in refined sugar, studies have convincingly shown worsening depression, oxidative stress which damages brain cell and affects our memory (Lancet Psychiatry). The consequences of a poor diet have become so apparent that there is now a field of “Nutritional Psychiatry.” It is well known that these ultra-processed foods increase the death rate by 62% (Mueller, P. 2019). You will see an increase in cancer, intestinal disorders, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure as well.
When we choose a sugar reduce diet full of healthy, unprocessed food, we see major improvements in health and happiness.
Caring for our body requires us to manage our sleep properly. Studies have shown that our body works optimally when we get an adequate amount of sleep on a regular schedule. When we avoid caffeine, nicotine, irregular sleep schedules and get physical activity during the day, we are ensuring a good night rest, followed by a day filled with energy, productivity, and happiness. In contrast, 67% of people surveyed with poor sleep reported just fair health. They noted weight gain, moodiness, irritability, elevated blood pressure, and relationship trouble. (Harvard Health Publishing). They found a 36% increase in colon cancer, a 48% increase in heart disease and 33% increase in dementia (John Hopkins Medicine).
Our level of stress also plays a pivotal role in our health and happiness. Fifty-nine percent of working-age Americans have moderate stress on a daily basis. Among those with stress, near 77% have physical symptoms due to their stress. Commonly these people have insomnia, sadness, anger, and intestinal upset. Other people have heart disease, diabetes, depression and an increased rate of suicide as a result of these stress (National Institute of Mental Health). The corollary is true when we reduce stress. We sleep better are less irritable, anxious and depressed.
Exercise turns out to be quite a good way to counter stress. When we exercise, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are released. Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Ratey found that these chemicals are associated with happiness. In fact, many studies indicate that exercise is an effective way to reduce depression. Researchers at the University of British Columbia noted exercise boosted the brain hippocampus which enhanced memory and learning. They also noted an increase in blood flow to the brain which helps with sleep and reduced stress and anxiety.