Happiness and Health in Care
It may seem obvious that there’s a link between happiness and health.
And yet, it’s not always clear what that link is and how to strengthen it.
Knowing how to maximise our health and wellbeing are fundamental to enjoying a good quality of life.
So whether you work in care, receive support or simply want to help a loved one, read on to discover more.
Health and Happiness: Which Comes First?
Many people assume that happiness depends on good health.
While evidence does show that health contributes to happiness levels, the good news is that it may cut both ways.
Scientists are still trying to untangle the relationship between the two, although studies suggest that people who are already happy experience a range of health benefits.
This is positive news for many people receiving care who can take steps to improve their psychological well-being and thereby their physical health.
What Are the Positive Effects of Happiness?
Science shows that, compared to their unhappy counterparts, happier people experience the following health benefits:
- Better heart health
- A stronger immune system
- Less stress
- Less pain
- Reduced chronic disease and disability
- A longer life
How Can a Person Feel Happy All the Time?
They can’t. While most of us would like to be happier, it’s important to note that unhappy feelings in themselves, aren’t bad.
People face significant struggles within the care industry, from clients with debilitating medical conditions to staff who coping with demanding work pressures.
Everyone feels sad, stressed or anxious from time to time, emotionally healthy feelings that shouldn’t be dismissed.
However, these feelings shouldn’t dominate your mind or prevent you enjoying life.
Ways to Improve Happiness
The following approaches may just help you experience more happiness, with all of its associated health benefits.
Comprehensive research shows the benefits of meditation with regard to mental and physical health. Perhaps the core component of the practice is mindfulness, which means paying attention to the present moment.
Becoming the observer of your thoughts and feelings helps you accept them as normal fluctuations the mind, thereby reducing their emotional impact. Let’s take an example.
If you have a health condition which requires home care and you’re unable to participate in your regular daily activities, you may have a strong emotional reaction. Perhaps you think about how mobile you were before or worry about the implications of your health deteriorating further.
Such thoughts can become a negative spiral, creating anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness allows you to observe your mind impartially, realising that it doesn’t define you. Becoming less identified with your thoughts and feelings in this way frees up emotional energy, lets you see your situation more clearly and make meaningful progress.
Start a Creative Hobby
Many of us are so immersed in our daily lives that we forget to allow an outlet for our creative energies.
Writing, poetry, painting or singing can provide just such a release. Art therapy, for example, has become a successful treatment used by many practitioners to treat a range of psychological issues.
If the activity’s intrinsically motivated it’s even more effective at improving health and wellbeing. In other words, it’s important to pick something for sheer enjoyment, rather than fame and fortune!
What did you enjoy in your younger years that you could pick up again as a hobby? Is there something you’re good at, or always dreamed of doing?
By choosing something enjoyable, you’re fulfilling three basic psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence.
A whole new field of research has demonstrated the positive effects of gratitude on health. While problem-solving is an important skill, solely scanning for the negative in life can have a detrimental effect on your health.
Gratitude, on the other hand, helps you shift your focus and pick up on the positive. Studies show what simply writing down three things you’re grateful for every day can have a significant effect on well-being.
What’s more, they don’t have to be big things. If a friend comes around for tea, you see one of your grandchildren or simply manage to a little walk in the park, focussing on such positive experiences will almost certainly help.
Spend Time With Others
Happiness happens in groups. Humans are social by nature and connecting with others allows you to share your joy or receive support when needed.
Although it can be difficult to reach out when you feel lonely, just picking up the phone and inviting a friend around for tea can make all the difference. Talking can be the best therapy.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, perhaps you could even join a local club. Socialising in groups with a common goal can add to a feeling of purpose, allowing you to connect on a closer level.
As well as improving physical health by default, exercise has also proven hugely effective in dealing with psychological issues.
Moving your body gives you an instant feel-good sensation through the release of natural chemicals in the brain called endorphins. And the exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous. Focus on what you can do, even if it’s just a walk around the house.
Alternatively, talk to your GP or physiotherapist, who may be able to provide a range of targeting exercise to improve your day to day life.
Develop a Growth Mindset
Based on research by the neuroscientist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that you can adapt to and overcome life’s obstacles.
It forms one of the most important measures of resilience in the face of life’s unavoidable challenges.
By contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that your qualities and talents can’t be changed.
If you’re starting a new diet or set of exercises, a growth mindset with positive self-talk will not only benefit your health goals but also raise your happiness levels.
Research shows that helping others makes us happy. Have you ever supported a friend and felt good for doing it?
Altruism can even be more beneficial than taking action for a specific reward, which might be why volunteering is such a powerful tool for social good.
Are there any local initiatives you can join, which allow you to give your time or knowledge to a specific cause? If not, perhaps just picking up the phone and listening to a loved one may help.
Most of us would like to stay independent and healthy for as long as possible, enjoying the best quality of life.
And although the methods above aren’t a panacea for every health challenge, focusing on small actions to improve your emotional wellbeing can certainly help.