Living a healthier lifestyle, of course, offers a variety of benefits to everyone. One of the most important and one of my favorite benefits is the utter happiness it brings. And I promise that you don't need to be a health nut like me to experience it. While preventing/alleviating illness, maintaining physical fitness and taking care of our bodies are all incredibly important, happiness is one thing that most, if not all, of us are seeking.
There is a lot more to healthy living than meets the eye. Healthy living requires exercising and proper nutrition, obviously, but it also involves sleep, stress management, love and other emotions, perspectives, fulfillment and so much more. When we put all of these things together, we can very quickly be consumed with happiness, which is most definitely a good thing as we progress through life.
Exercise alone gets us moving and active, which stimulates our bodies and our minds, giving us energy and making us feel good. The scientific portion of this is that hormones and chemicals, called endorphins, get released when we exercise; they react with receptors in our brains, causing a feeling of positivity. It's true: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." ("Legally Blonde," 2001).
Have you ever eaten too much unhealthy food, like fried or items full of empty calories, and felt great afterward? What about after eating a nutritious meal full of goodness? When you eat good, you feel good. When your body gets the nutrients and vitamins that it needs, it's happy, and I don't know about you, but feeling good makes me happy.
When we have so much to do throughout the day and even night, sometimes it's tough to get enough sleep. Sleep, however, is crucial for health and happiness. When we get enough sleep, we have the energy to function, think clearly and accomplish day-to-day tasks per usual, which leads to happiness. When we don't get enough sleep, we tend to feel unproductive, lethargic and unhappy. When it comes to our health, sleep should be a priority.
Stress also plays a major role in our health. When we're stressed, we just don't feel good, right? Managing stress in a healthy manner makes us feel better and eventually leads to happiness. Rather than let things pile up and overwhelm you, try accomplishing one task at a time and focusing on what you need to get done, all while keeping your health in mind.
Emotions are a key component of healthy living because if we don't express them in a healthy way or manage them, then performing other aspects of healthy living, like exercising and eating right, become more difficult. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and express them in a way that works for you. I've learned that love is an extremely powerful emotion and expressing it has made me happier than I've ever been in my life. Don't be afraid to let emotions shine through.
Happiness plays a role in each of our lives every day, whether we realize it or not. Health allows us to live our lives to the fullest and keep chugging along, and life is just no fun when we don't think about our happiness — they go hand in hand. There is so much more to healthy living than just simply "staying healthy." Think about what aspect of healthy living makes you happy and continue the habit! Remember, "the groundwork of all happiness is health" (Leigh Hunt).
Amanda Oppenheim is a graduate of Stevenson University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.