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How Can Healthy Lifestyle Effect Happiness?

by Suleman
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Introduction

Since time immemorial, pleasure has been the theme in metaphysical discourses. Greek and Roman philosophers also debated it in mythology, theology, poems, and ancient cultural literature. In an effort to justify its application to existence, Western philosophers offer detailed descriptions. The popular Greek philosopher questioned what satisfaction is and where it can be found, or eudaimonia in Greek (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). According to him, “happiness is the supreme good that supplies the purpose, and measures the value, of all human activity and striving” (Philosophy of happiness, n.d., p. 13).

Owing to pleasure, man will do anything (Aristotle, 2002, as cited in Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). In this context, pleasure is the key force that motivates a human to do a certain act (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). Generally speaking, a human would perform an act because he or she will receive pleasure from it. Thus, even the execution of such actions that may be unbearable for the majority is performed by others since these acts give them joy and satisfaction (e.g., subjecting oneself to pain, as done by masochists).

Happiness applies, according to Veenhoven (2006), to the complete enjoyment of one’s overall life and love of life. It is a state of mind that can be assessed only by asking the respondent detailed questions (Veenhoven, 2006). Owing to the variations in baseline results and the broadness of classes and subgroups, research on the beneficial effects of satisfaction on survival have seen greater heterogeneity. While it might not be feasible to generalise that satisfaction may help an individual live longer, the research findings suggest that happiness may prevent a person from becoming sick (Veenhoven, 2006).

While people can know the definition of happiness, there are variations about how happiness is seen by an individual. The end-goals of each person in achieving it will then be different. They would often have to do various activities to experience it, based on the concept of satisfaction by people. Happiness can be achieved in return for anything, however. Before they declare themselves satisfied, other people have to work for years. This can be found in persons who in the business world will consider a good job or managerial job or complete a certain degree as the indicator of their satisfaction. It’ll take years, maybe even decades, to achieve so  , to view themselves as satisfied in this way. Anchoring happiness on a long-term goal would be quite difficult for an individual since not attaining it after the expected period might cause depression, loneliness, and isolation of the individual from the rest of society. There are also people who are happy every moment of their lives and with every little accomplishment. They are not difficult to satisfy themselves. There are also people who would trade dignity for happiness (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.).

Happiness is the result of attaining something. In other words, people “do other things for the sake of happiness” (Philosophy of happiness, n.d., p. 14). People are willing to do the most unusual things just to be happy (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). Happiness though, cannot be a means to other goals (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). Aristotle was suggesting that happiness must be sought on its own as the ultimate end and not for some other end (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). Happiness is also self-sufficient, in that, the person experiences wholeness (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.). In this sense, there is no missing element in the person’s life; otherwise, a deficiency in the person’s life would also mean a diminution of happiness (Philosophy of happiness, n.d.).

Happiness lies deep inside the person and does not exist in external objects (James, 2007). Happiness may come from external things and objects, but it really lies and arises from within the person (James, 2007). Happiness is experienced when the desire of a person is satisfied (James, 2007). It occurs when the disturbance in the mind subsides and the mind attains calmness (James, 2007).

The Oriental philosophy on happiness, especially one that hinges upon the ancient spiritual teachings delve on the inner consciousness, the inner being of man, the mind of man. According to Bhagavan Sri Ramana, happiness springs from the satisfaction of the desire (James, 2007). But the fear must be absent or removed and the agitation that blur the mind lessened (James, 2007). He also said that to experience happiness, the mind must be free from disturbance and attain a state of calmness (James, 2007). He added that to master happiness, a person has to know one’s own inner being (James, 2007).

Unhappiness also has an economic impact upon the individual, the family and society. An unhappy person becomes unproductive, and if he or she becomes ill due to prolonged negative emotion, that person will not be able to work and earn a living. Depression, for instance, has afflicted 40 percent of the teens and persons in their twenties at some point in time, and has resulted in suicide for those untreated. These incidents have a toll on the economy for productivity and income loss both for the family and society.

How can healthy lifestyle effect happiness?

Science of Happiness

Emotions are interrelated with the chemical and chemical reactions inside the body (Radwan, 2011). The emotions a person feel result from the hormones released by the body, including happiness and loneliness (Radwan, 2011). The hormones that make a person happy are as follows: Serotonin (regulates mood, suspends depression, produces happiness), Endorphin (makes one feel good, lessens anxiety and pain), Dopamine (makes one mentally alert, can concentrate better, lack of the hormone can result to bad moods), Phenylethamine (hormone released during the early stage of a relationship), and Ghrelin (lessens stress, makes a person relaxed) (Radwan, 2011). Serotonin is released by exposure to sunlight, eating carbohydrate-rich food and exercise; Endorphin is released by exercise, while Dopamine is released by eating protein-rich food (Radwan, 2011). Phenylethamine can be taken from Cocoa beans, and therefore eating chocolate would give the feeling of love and excitement (Radwan, 2011). Ghrelin is produced when a person becomes hungry, thus, eating too much is not suggested in order to maintain a good level of this hormone in the body (Radwan, 2011).

Unhappiness: Causes and Outcomes

Unhappiness, the opposite of happiness, generally points to loneliness. An unhappy person does not perform well at school or at work, disgruntled with life, is not contented, and views life negatively. People experience unhappiness due to a distressing event or experience (Depression, n.d.). A prolonged unhappiness can result to depression which is characterized by sadness, irritability, or low temperament (Depression, n.d.). Studies reported that depression occurs twice in women than men, and may last for a lifetime if untreated (Depression, n.d.). It affects 40 percent of the population at some time in their lives, but most common with teens and persons in the twenties (Depression, n.d.).

Depression had been determined as the one of the causes of suicide and major depression accounts for 20 percent of those untreated cases (Gotlib & Hammen, 2002, as cited in Some facts, 2009). Around two-thirds of the individuals who successfully committed suicide experience depression at the time of death (Some facts, 2009). There are several causes of depression such as genetic, physical, social, psychological, family and biochemical (What are the causes, 2005). Prolonged unhappiness as the cause of depression would similarly result in suicide. When depression sets in, a person would no longer get pleasure or satisfaction from the normal activities (Depression, n.d.). Depressed people would have difficulty sleeping, lack appetite for food, loss sexual drive, or fearful (Depression, n.d.). Unhappiness then, especially if prolonged, can negatively affect the life and lifestyle of individuals.

The common notion among people is that unhappiness is caused by external factors. In this sense, a person becomes unhappy when something desired is not attained, when one’s possession is lost, a loved one is gone, or when being rejected. But revolutionary thinkers are proposing another school of thought with regard to unhappiness. Under this point of view, unhappiness results from the way a person interprets his or her experiences (Gallozzi, n.d.).

The main proponents of this school are Dr. Albert Ellis and Dr. Aaron Beck, who expounds on the Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, respectively (Gallozzi, n.d.). According to them, a person’s unhappiness is not due to external events but by the attitude of the person (Gallozzi, n.d.). However, this point of view had been expounded centuries ago by the Greek philosopher Epictetus (55-135 AD) and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) (Gallozzi, n.d.). Epictetus said that “Men are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them,” while Aurelius aptly described the situation as: “If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your control to annihilate the judgment now” (Gallozzi, n.d., par. 3). Thus, it would be unwise to blame others for the unhappiness a person experiences (Gallozzi, n.d.).

When a person becomes unhappy with a particular circumstance, it is to because he or she thinks that that situation is causing him or her unhappiness. In this sense, similar situations can evoke different emotions in different persons because they have varying reactions and thoughts on those situations. One person then may become unhappy when losing jewelry, but another would not be feeling the same.

A person may change one’s reaction to a stimulus by understanding the cause and one’s reaction to it. The connection should be subjected to an analysis and cut off the connection through modification of behavior and attitude toward the stimulus. An individual then has the capacity of changing his or her psychological mindset toward the stimulus and behavior. An individual has the power to make oneself happy. Constant complaining and bitterness would only deprive a person of happiness (Gallozzi, n.d.).

Happiness and Positive Lifestyle

Lifestyle encompasses the way of life of persons, families, or societies that they manifest as they cope daily with the physical, social, psychological, and economic circumstances (“lifestyle”, 2011). Lifestyle comprises the attitude, values, interests, activities, self-image (how one views the self and thinks that others see him or her), etc. of an individual, and thus, affects one’s decision-making (“lifestyle”, 2011). It is also influenced by the family and other groups to which one belongs (“lifestyle”, 2011). It is manifested in a person’s daily life, and is affected by one’s predisposition and viewpoint in life. Thus, lifestyle is interrelated and is a reflection of the mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of man, as well as his or her values and beliefs. Lifestyle then develops through time and includes the totality of values and beliefs that a person cherishes.

Lifestyle may also change along with time and with the changing world viewpoint, as influenced by the changing technology and lifestyle in other societies. The way of life of the people in the UK during the 18th century is greatly different from the current way of life of the people. And within the subgroups and subcultures of the people in the UK, there are also varying lifestyles and beliefs due to the multiculturalism and migration of people.

A positive lifestyle would refer to a way of living that is generally regarded as optimistic, good, wholesome, or upbeat. Living a positive lifestyle would entail thriving with a good viewpoint about life, positive behavior and attitude, as well as the ability to adapt well in life despite the presence of negative experiences and events. The way of life, as mentioned earlier, develops through time and influenced by the values of the family and society. An individual though may imbibe values and beliefs different from the general beliefs and values of the family and society he or she is living since they can be taken from books, movies, and the internet. An individual with a different set of values may be subjected to ostracism by the family or society for being indifferent.

Values and beliefs change as a person grows, and depending on one’s association and affiliation, may become unwholesome and negative. Being with a group of people that harbors racism would create within a person hatred towards a particular group of people. Or going with individuals who are drug users may ultimately influence a person to try drugs, too. A person may also revert back to one’s former values after learning through experience that the new set of values being followed have not given him or her anything good. Thus, lifestyle may change and be influenced by other factors in society.

In the same manner, emotion may influence the way of life of a person. An individual who has been harboring anger toward a particular ethnic group may curse or insult anyone that belongs to that group upon seeing one. The scenario may also be equated with dislike or aversion to certain religions or animals. Hatred or dislike that lasts for longer durations would create a negative impact upon the mind and psychological aspect of an individual. They would affect the point of view of a person and his or her reaction, attitude and behavior toward other people. Negative values, thoughts and attitude can be said to impact negatively upon the lifestyle of a person. Being continually in a state of sadness and depression would affect a person’s vigor, activities in life, and performance in school or at work. Depressed individuals may not be able to sleep well, that lend to the degradation of health and well-being.

On the other hand, a person that harbors positive thoughts and emotions, as well as good values in life would thrive positively. Being happy though, would require a person to be realistic, which means knowing what is achievable within a particular frame of time. This would prevent a person from becoming dissatisfied when a goal or objective has not been attained. Setting a goal, which is beyond the attainable, would make a person upset and hopeless. But by being practical, an individual would not set for oneself improbable objectives. And even if the goals desired to be attained were attainable, a practical person would not succumb to disappointment and grief if they were not attained in the long run. In this way, a person would become unhappy or discontented with life no matter what negative events or experiences he or she may encounter.

Contentment in life may also be a key to the happiness of a person. Being content with the daily life or what has been attained at the moment would give an individual satisfaction regardless of the person’s station in life. The goals a person would set for attainment would also be achievable and practical. In this manner, whether or not the identified goals are achieved, an individual would not succumb to disappointment and unhappiness. Imbibing positive emotions and happiness everyday would create a positive attitude, predisposition, and viewpoint in life upon an individual. And having this kind of mindset daily would reinforce a positive lifestyle upon a person. Moreover, a happy person would be more energetic and vivacious in attending to the daily activities and demands in life.

Conclusion

Happiness is an emotion, a positive one as against the negative emotions. Happiness is experienced when the mind is free from disturbances, stress or agitation. In life, it is natural to have problems and concerns everyday that range from utility bills, busted water pipes, daily and emergency expenses, retrenchment from work, etc. that affect one’s mental and emotional equilibrium. And it is such agitations, whether minor or quite heavy, that takes away happiness. In short, when the daily concerns affect a person, negative emotions may set in.

A person though need not be overly affected by the daily concerns in life, but has to manage and handle them with ease so as not to be affected emotionally. Thus, no matter how minor or difficult the problems are, the person must be able to handle them without one’s emotion being negatively affected, without the mind resorting to extreme or negative thoughts, or without acting and behaving negatively. In short, that person can maintain one’s equanimity and emotional balance despite any untoward incident or situation. And in case such concerns affect the person, he or she would not be influenced to such an extent that the emotion would become negative and disrupt one’s calmness.

Having this kind of predisposition in life and attitude daily would produce a positive way of life and lifestyle. The ability to handle difficult situations well would avert setting in of negative emotions. Moreover, being content with life, acquisitions and accomplishments can also result in happiness. For instance, being contented with one’s current job would result in work satisfaction, and lead to good performance at work. And if promotion or higher position is targeted, one has to engage in acquiring new skills and learning. New skills and learning might also give satisfaction to the worker even if promotion is not attained later.

Problems and concerns do not go away and are part of living. Inability to manage them well would ultimately cause dissatisfaction or depression. Thus, as suggested in the Oriental philosophies, a person has to understand oneself and inner being. Through this approach, the person will be able to determine how to handle one’s emotions, both positive and negative, and produce positive emotions.

Happiness can also be achieved by having a positive viewpoint in life and wholesome living. And as science has indicated, the food people take also affects the production and release of certain hormones that results in positive feelings and emotions. Moreover, exercise has also been identified to help release Serotonin and Endorphin. Thus, a balanced food intake, together with physical activity and exercise, can make a healthy and happy person.

A person then who can allow happiness to dominate one’s personality and existence would have a positive and wholesome lifestyle. By being happy, negativities and extreme activities would be avoided by an individual, and in turn, produce a positive way of life and relationship with other people. Healthy family and social interactions, on the other side, may also create peace in life and contentment. Thus, happiness is produced by good social relationships, which in turn reinforces happiness.

References
  • Depression. (n.d.). Bupa Health Insurance. Retrieved 26 September 2011, from http://www.healthwise.org.hk/az/english/pdf/E%2019.pdf 
  • Gallozzi, C. (n.d.). The cause of unhappiness. Retrieved 26 September 2011, from http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/unhappiness-cause.htm    
  • James, M. (2007, August). Happiness and the art of being: A layman’s introduction to the philosophy and practice of the spiritual teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana. Retrieved 25 September 2011, from http://www.happinessofbeing.com/Happiness_and_the_Art_of_Being.pdf   
  • “lifestyle”. (2011). BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved 25 September 2011, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/lifestyle.html  
  • (The) philosophy of happiness. In Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Utility. Chapter 1, pp. 13-43. Retrieved 25 September 2011, from http://charleskenny.blogs.com/weblog/files/kenny_chapter_1.pdf   
  • Radwan, M.F. (2011). Hormones that make you happy. Retrieved 25 September 2011, from http://www.2knowmyself.com/Hormones_that_make_you_happy  
  • Some facts about suicide and depression. (2009, June 23). American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved 27 September 2011, from http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=232&name=DLFE-157.pdf 
  • Veenhoven, R. (2006). Healthy happiness: Effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive. Retrieved 27 September 2011, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/images/pdfs/VeenhovenHealthHappiness2006.pdf   
  • What are the causes of depression – factors play a role in depression? (2005). Retrieved 27 September 2011, from http://www.depression-guide.com/depression-causes.htm

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