A recent report by the Wits/Medical Research Council, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU), reveals that approximately 25.7% of South Africans may be experiencing depression, with a significant portion of respondents reporting moderate to severe symptoms. This growing concern for mental health is not limited to South Africa alone, as people worldwide seek resources to improve their mental well-being and embark on a journey towards inner peace. It is crucial to recognize the profound influence that happiness can have on mental well-being, overall health, and, most importantly, the fact that individuals possess the ability to create their own happiness. In fact, this relationship works both ways: if you are healthier, you are happier, and if you are happier, you are healthier!
Happiness encompasses physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Achieving happiness involves nurturing your physical health while optimising your emotional and mental state. By embracing a healthy lifestyle that incorporates balanced nutrition and regular physical activity, you can experience a range of benefits associated with happiness, such as a lower heart rate, blood pressure, and reduced anxiety. Moreover, happiness is closely linked to the release of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that contribute to brain health.
What are the Factors that Foster Happiness?
According to an Ipsos survey, individuals attribute their greatest happiness to their health and well-being, both physical and mental, as well as their family (partner/spouse and children). They also find happiness in having a sense of purpose, secure living conditions, a feeling of safety and control, connecting with nature, having a meaningful job, and achieving financial stability.
While the path to better health and its connection to happiness may seem straightforward, discovering your purpose is a personal and introspective journey that requires deep reflection to truly understand your authentic self. Positive psychology, a field dedicated to the study of emotional and mental health optimization and happiness, has found that individuals with a sense of purpose are more likely to experience happiness.
To guide you on your quest for happiness and long-term overall well-being, here are several proactive tips:
Nourish Your Body
Scientific research demonstrates that healthy eating contributes to happiness. Your physical well-being largely depends on how you fuel your body. Your body acts as a vessel that can operate optimally when given proper care. Adopting balanced nutrition habits and a healthy and active lifestyle will empower your body to function at its best.
Incorporate Regular Exercise
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle offer benefits to both your body and mind. When you exercise, your muscles and brain receive an increased blood flow, providing essential oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the brain’s dopamine pathways, activating the pleasure centre. For this reason, exercise is used as a therapeutic tool for treating mood disorders, depression, and addictive behaviours, including overeating.
The growing global interest in self-care highlights the significance of dedicating time to relax and recharge, as it is one of the most effective ways to find genuine happiness. Engaging in activities that trigger the relaxation response can positively affect your body, including lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and a calm mind. To activate the relaxation response, find a quiet, private spot and follow these steps: relax each muscle in your body from head to toe, focus on your breathing, take deep breaths, and visualise a relaxing image, such as ocean waves. Practising this for just 20 minutes a day can revitalise your mind and promote better sleep.
Discover Your Purpose
Positive Psychology emphasises the importance of finding your “why” or purpose in life. True happiness stems from living a life that aligns with your personal purpose. To identify your purpose, embark on the following steps: find your passion or what you love, define your mission or what you believe the world needs more of, seek work that allows you to be paid while staying true to your purpose, and have confidence in your strengths and abilities. By following these steps, your purpose will gradually reveal itself. At the Herbalife Nutrition Institute, my colleagues and I have discovered our purpose: to foster the world’s premier health and wellness company and community, equipping individuals with the tools they need to live their best lives.
Transforming your mindset can have a profound impact. Instead of dwelling on the negatives in your life, shift your focus towards the positives, whether big or small. Psychological research indicates that concentrating on the good aspects of your life and expressing gratitude will enhance your happiness. Consider keeping a gratitude journal or jotting down a brief list each day, expressing thanks for everything you have. This simple practice can significantly improve your mood.
Focus on the Controllable
Each of us possesses a circle of influence and a circle of concern. The circle of concern comprises external factors beyond our control, while the circle of influence encompasses things we can control, such as our personal habits. By adopting a proactive approach, you can focus on what you can change instead of worrying about the things you cannot control. Taking responsibility for your personal habits and achievements will boost your confidence and overall happiness. Embracing a proactive mindset enables you to embrace change and growth, rather than being paralyzed by worry and anxiety. Developing healthy habits in all aspects of your life, including maintaining a balanced diet and implementing an active lifestyle, is one of the most effective ways to enhance your happiness.
Happiness is not a mere coincidence or something that happens by chance. It is an outcome that you can actively create. True happiness encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and once found, it provides a lasting sense of contentment. As you progress through this journey, consciously incorporate habits that positively impact your physical and mental health, allowing you to cultivate a sense of inner peace.
Article by Dr. David Heber, MD, Author, Chairman of the Herbalife Nutrition Institute and Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board Member.