Happiness Habit #3: Wellness

It is well established that the mind and body are connected. We can all relate to the experience of having a cold or feeling under the weather and then becoming overwhelmed or stressed more easily due to not feeling well. “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” We are more vulnerable and susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions when we are not taking care of our physical wellness. 

Recent research has showed links between happiness and good health.  It is difficult to determine if having an optimistic mindset leads to good health or good health leads to a more optimistic mindset, but the research shows that they are positively correlated. Among the results, they found happiness protects your heart, strengthens your immune system, combats stress, reduces aches and pains, combats disease and disability, and lengthens our lives. 


What do we need to focus on in regards to our wellness?

Balanced Diet: Recent research indicates that 80% of our immune system is in our gut, and that the balance or imbalance of our gut flora affects our organs and our brain. An imbalanced gut can cause both physical and emotional issues (e.g., anxiety, depression).  We need to take a good look at what we are putting into our body, after all, the purpose of food is to provide fuel and nutrition so we can optimally perform physically and mentally.  If we are loading ourselves with sugars, fast food, greasy food and comfort food, then we’re not going to have the proper fuel we need. 

Those who think they have no time for healthy eating… will sooner or later have to find time for illness. ~ Edward Stanley

When working with clients, I encourage them to make eating choices that reflect healthy lifestyles and work towards a balanced diet.  For me, it is not about losing weight or expecting ourselves to be happy when the number on the scale reaches a goal weight, but it is about physically feeling better, having more energy, and providing our body with the nutrients it needs. We also take a look at emotional eating patterns where we are numbing emotions with chips, ice cream, etc. The spinach may not taste better than ice cream, but it will provide you with immune-boosting nutrients and you could get out of the emotional eating shame cycle if you start to make different choices.  Remember, you may many opportunities throughout the day to make food choices, so focus on one choice at a time. 

Exercise: Physical movement is very important to our physical and emotional health.  It has been linked to reduced anxiety, reduced depression, and it has other mental health benefits.

Start small.  Let it be things that you enjoy doing – walking, gardening, fun recreational sports, kickboxing classes, etc. Increase your stamina, start to feel your strength increase and then take on more challenges with either how long or what you’re doing for exercise. The Federal Government released new physical fitness guidelines yesterday and fewer than 1 in 3 of us are meeting those standards! 

The good news is we can do exercise anywhere. We don’t need to be members of a fancy gym to go on a brisk walk around then neighborhood or pull up YouTube videos of yoga to do in our living room.  The important part is to just do it for 20-30 minutes a day.  We all feel better after exercise because endorphins are released and we feel pride in accomplishing something.  An important part when starting this habit is that you have to follow Nike’s Just Do It motto. You cannot wait until the motivation hits because that may never happen. But once you start doing it and feel the benefits, that encourages you to continue the habit. 

Hydration: The human brain is made up of about 75% water and therefore, dehydration quickly affects how we think and feel. It reduces attention and focus, increases fatigues, and increases emotional vulnerability.  Physically, we also need water to get rid of wastes, regulate temperature, lubricate joints, and protect sensitive tissues.  

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

·      About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men

·      About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

You also need to take into consideration exercise (drinking extra to cover fluid loss via sweat), environment (hot and humid weather requires additional fluids), overall health (if you’re sick, you need more fluids to heal), and pregnant or nursing women need more additional fluids to stay hydrated. 

If you don’t like drinking just plain water, there are other options: green tea (which also has immune boosting benefits), Kombucha, iced tea (preferably unsweet), add cucumber or fruits to your water, or have tomato juice.  Start drinking fluids throughout the day and see what happens!

Sleep: Ahh… sleep….  One of the most important components of our overall physical and mental health, yet something many people struggle with. The New York Times released a comprehensive guide to sleep and I encourage you to explore the content. 

I will be diving deeper into sleep issues in future posts, but for now, start to examine your sleeping habits and see what gets in the way of having quality rest each night. (Also, you’re really not missing out on anything in life if you go to bed at a decent hour!)


So, which are of wellness are you going to start focusing on?


If you’d like to explore more of these wellness habits or happiness habits in general, contact me or Knoxville Counseling Services to start your journey to increased life satisfaction.