Happiness and health have been linked in literature and philosophy for a very long time. In Chinese medicine, the ancient texts suggest that the best physician is the one who first teaches patients to cultivate qualities of being that lead to a good life. From this point of view, and from what I find in my acupuncture practice Reston, health is linked to how we view ourselves, life, and how this can influence our overall sense of happiness and well being. Joy or contentment, an aspect of happiness, is a key emotion in acupuncture therapy that is linked to the function of the heart and the circulatory system.
More recently, in the field of Positive Psychology, research has been conducted that explores the factors contributing to happiness and health. Research suggests that human strengths and virtues (the bread and butter of Greek classical philosophy) function to enhance resilience – the ability to buffer against misfortune and stress. Positive emotions are highly associated with a long life. Cheerfulness and other positive emotions (virtues) are highly linked to marital satisfaction and strong relationships, which in turn are linked to strong immunity.
Optimism is also a health promoting quality related to happiness. Optimists attribute the cause of positive events in their lives to personality traits. They give themselves personal credit to good events in their lives; they see the world through a lens that allows them to experience a sense of inner control over things.
Other aspects of happiness such as the ability to delay gratification and generosity are also linked to health and longevity.
There is also research evidence suggesting that stress, anxiety, and depression are linked to unhappiness and poorer health outcomes. It seems that chronic negative states increase inflammation, dampen the immune system, and lead to a variety of diseases and conditions.
For enhancing our own health, it is wise to cultivate these human strengths and virtues.