24 August 2019
Happiness can promote physical and mental well-being in many ways. Photo: Xinhua
Happiness can promote physical and mental well-being in many ways. Photo: Xinhua

Happiness and health

“Pura Vida” an important Spanish expression widely used in Costa Rica means “pure life”. It’s one way of reminding people to enjoy life or embrace adversity as life is too short.

The Danish term “hygge” describes the feeling or mood arising from genuine pleasure that comes from making ordinary, everyday things more meaningful, beautiful or special.

Hongkongers should adopt this philosophy and internalize it. After all, happiness can promote physical and mental well-being in many ways.

1. Happiness can protect the heart. In a three-year study, participants were required to record their feelings 30 times a day. By the end of the study, those who reported themselves mostly happy came with lower blood pressure. In another study, more than 2,000 participants were invited to share about their jobs. Those who were rated as happy saw a lower chance of coronary heart disease.

2. Happiness can strengthen the immune systemResearchers found that proactive people who are energetic, joyful and calm would catch flu less frequently as their immune system is stronger and more responsive.

3. Happiness can help individuals fight pressure. The happiest and the unhappiest participants in a research saw a huge difference in the level of cortisol — the stress hormone of which the former group was found to have 23 percent lower level.

4. Happy individuals experience less pain. Those with a more proactive attitude have fewer symptoms such as muscle pain, dizziness or burning stomach. Research also showed that women who have arthritis or chronic pain would report less pain if they have been living largely with positive emotions in the past three months.

5. Happiness could resist illness. Satisfied individuals have a lower probability of contracting chronic illnesses by 1.5 times. While it is inevitable that the body grows weaker as people get older, those who are hopeful, have a higher self-esteem and enjoy life age more slowly.

6. Happiness promotes longevity. Individuals who are happy, satisfied and spirited have a 35 percent lower mortality rate than people who are pessimistic.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 18.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Honorary Professor of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong

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