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Being happy is part of being healthy

Posted Jun 28 2013 10:00am
You can focus exclusively on your physical well-being if you like: That is, what goes in your mouth, the supplements you take, your fitness too, and that’s good; but without consideration of your emotional wellness, and spirituality, you may find you’re missing out on the extra dimension of health that can really put the ‘icing on the cake’ in terms of how you feel about life, your relationships, and how you interact with the world.  

Lest you become concerned that I'm spruiking religious practices, it’s important to define ‘spirituality’ and ‘emotional wellness’ for the purposes of this article. Feeling healthy on emotional and spiritual levels is about how you feel within your own head, how you get along with people around you, your purpose in life, and how strongly you feel connected with that purpose. To enable this connection means making time for quiet thoughtful reflection, being grateful for what you have, and aligning your life activities with your higher purpose. Most of the major religions include these practices, which is why discussions around emotional well-being and spiritual health can so easily be misconstrued. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual; and you can choose to be part of a religion that boosts your emotional health if that’s your preference. 

There is actually scientific evidence that clearly connects your emotional well-being with your physical health. When you make the time to attend to your spirituality and how you feel, circulating levels of stress hormones like cortisol go down. In the short term, these stress hormones are really helpful. But in the long term, ongoing stress (and I think you’d agree, feeling unhappy is definitely a stressor) is detrimental for your physical health, particularly your immunity, digestion, hormones and how fast you age.

As with physical health, there are many valid pathways to the same destination; so for best results choose the pathway to emotional and spiritual wellness that feels right for you. Some people like to set off on a self-guided journey, reading books, meditating on what they learn, and applying it. Others prefer to be guided by someone who has training and expertise in their area, engaging in group workshops, or ongoing individual psychotherapy. Still others like to align themselves with the spiritual principles of a specific religious group, and use that as their guide. Whichever way feels like the right way for you probably is the right way for you. 

To assess your emotional health right now, consider how happy you feel within your own head, how healthy your relationships are, and whether you feel that you have a life purpose that gets you out of bed in the morning. Because life’s more fun when you’re emotionally and spiritually healthy as well as physically well.

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