Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 30 November |
The Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

What needs to come first, health or happiness?

HEALTHY WOMAN

Shutterstock

Javier Fiz Pérez - published on 09/18/18

Experts are delving into our physical and emotional health in search of the secret to a joyful life.

Recent research has shown that happiness and health go hand in hand. The happiest people tend to be the healthiest … or should we say that the healthiest people tend to be the happiest? Who knows which one comes first — but what we do know is that they’re closely associated and can, indeed, create a virtuous circle.

Various fields — including sociology, anthropology, and epidemiology — have done comparative studies of different lifestyles. Most of the progress in studying happiness and lifestyle has come from socio-cultural studies, which tries to ferret out influential group behavior in a certain society or community. Epidemiology, which has also studied the subject, tends to look specifically for behaviors that may be risky to people’s health.

One lifestyle decision often affects another, and we all know that at times they can reinforce each other; for example, if I stop smoking and do more exercise, I will probably eat better and experience an improvement in my mood. We can also fall into the opposite kind of dynamic, where one vice leads to another and to a decline in emotional and physical health.

Lifestyles and risk factors

The changes that societies have undergone over the past century due to technological innovation and new ways of structuring and organizing our lives have led to new ways of relating to each other and behaving. Consequently, we have adopted new lifestyles, which, to a great extent, explain an epidemiological transition that has taken place in recent decades, with the growth of non-communicable diseases as the primary causes of death and disability.

Former Canadian Minister of Health and Welfare Marc Lalonde proposed, almost four decades ago, that our health is conditioned by four factors: biological influences (genetic factors), the healthcare system, the environment, and our lifestyle. One of the most interesting contributions of his way of framing the issue is that, while a healthcare system requires a significant budget in order to influence people’s state of health — which it does particularly by helping recover their health in the face of an illness — lifestyle changes can have a much more profound influence on people’s well-being and quality of life. Rather than large budgets, the principle tools for fostering healthy lifestyles are education and promotion of healthy habits.

Investigation is making progress, but its application depends on me

The association between happiness and health is still being studied. It’s possible that the happiest people live the healthiest lifestyles, which protect them from chronic illnesses, but at the same time, it’s possible that being in good health is a source of happiness.

There is much yet to be learned, but what is clear is that health and happiness go hand in hand. Learning to cultivate joy, optimism, and gratitude through small daily actions, thus achieving greater levels of happiness and satisfaction with our lives, could favor not just our emotional health, but also our physical health. In the end, it’s a matter of respect for our own bodies, for life, and for society.


COUPLE,HOLDING,HANDS,CONNECTION

Read more:
An 8-decade study reveals the key to health and happiness


HAPPY WOMAN

Read more:
Why gratitude is good for your health

Tags:
Health and Wellness
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
John Paul II
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's guide to a fruitful Advent
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
PRAY
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things we can be grateful for this Thanksg...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.