Healthy…and Happy

This is the blog post I wasn’t going to write this evening. I knew this morning that today was one of those unusual holidays, Evaluate Your Life Day. I decided not to engage in that celebration, even though a kernel of an idea arose at the thought. Throughout a busy day, that little idea grew. And when “happy” kept coming into my awareness, through signs and the actual song Happy by Pharrell Williams, I accepted the nudges and invitations.

I consider myself an optimistic, positive, happy person. I have been these last seven years especially, after facing my fears and moving beyond them. However, an intriguing thing has been happening to me. The last two or three months, people have told me repeatedly that I look happy, seem happy, appear to be so happy.

When something happens repetitively, it gets my attention.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I appear to be happier, even though in my own estimation, I have lived on Happy Street for a while. People who tell me I seem to be happier are linking this high level of energetic being to my increased healthiness. And I find that fascinating!

Could there be a correlation between feeling good, health wise, and feeling GOOD, happiness wise?

For Evaluate Your Life Day, I considered that possibility and did a little research.

When I began a plant based lifestyle, 15 months ago, I wasn’t thinking about happiness. I was focused on healing and finding relief from chronic pain. It was the right focus. Changing my diet to one of fruits, veggies, rice, legumes and nuts literally changed my health…and my life.

It is an ongoing journey that has brought me many unexpected benefits. Not only did my pain subside, other minor health ailments cleared up as well. I began to experience episodes of euphoria that at first puzzled me. Then I realized this was what good health felt like.

People noticed that I lost weight, quit using a cane, stopped limping. And now they notice that I am happy. I wondered today, is it because my face is relaxed, rather than carrying a slight frown? When at rest, the subtle drawing together of my eyebrows was due to the pain I felt but didn’t verbally express. And often my apparent “lost in thought” look was me considering how much it was going to hurt when I stood after sitting through a long meal or a meeting. I no longer battle pain like that. Was this the difference in my countenance?

Or was it deeper than that? Had those bouts of euphoria developed into joy and happiness?

I found many studies online, linking positive thoughts to better health. And only one finding a correlation between improved health and happiness. A new study out of Australia suggests that eating more fruits and vegetables may make you feel happier.

Researchers studied more than 12,000 Australians for two years. They asked people whether they normally ate fruits and veggies and how much. They also asked the participants how satisfied with life they were, on a scale from 1 to 10. Then they tracked diets for two years, and whether people increased their fruit and veggie consumption, while also studying their satisfaction levels.

Results showed that those who added more fruits and veggies per day to their diets, increased their levels of life satisfaction as well. Research has suggested that greater levels of carotenoids, found in some fruits and veggies, are linked to greater optimism. Plus an increased intake in vitamin B12, also present in fruits and veggies, boosts a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which helps to regulate mood.

Redzo Mujcic, one of the study’s researchers wrote, “Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet. There is a psychological payoff now from fruits and vegetables, not just a lower health risk.”

Perhaps, indeed!

Many of the people that I talk to about their health are afraid their happiness will decrease if they give up foods they enjoy. What if the opposite is true? What if, by increasing fruits and veggies, they felt happier while feeling healthier?

And if adding more fruits and veggies increases levels of satisfaction with life, what would switching entirely to a plant based diet do? Perhaps it results in bouts of euphoria…that becomes a high level of sustained happiness!

I think it warrants more thought on my part, and more research. But what an intriguing correlation. I am willing to be the guinea pig and live it out, as I continue in my journey of pursuing greater and greater health, and see what happens. The best way for me to impact others in a positive healthy way, is to live my life openly.

I am an ambassador for health…and happiness.