Happiness plays a major role in one’s health and fitnessBy Mitch Felipe Mendoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Although lots of people are now into fitness and healthy lifestyles, many are not yet ready to start a physical wellness program because they lack the motivation, inspiration and positive feelings to initiate change.
This type of challenge has empowered experts and health professionals to develop a holistic approach to wellness. Health advocates like the IDEA Health and Fitness community, the world’s leading organization in health and fitness, are now putting more efforts to incorporate campaigns for positive well-being into health care and fitness programs worldwide. One such is improving one’s level of happiness for positive physical health.
As professionals, we should not focus solely on a client’s body-fat percentage, or how many repetitions of push-ups he or she can do. Rather, we should also focus on clients’ positive emotions, not only as a result of exercise, but also based on how they manage their thoughts and actions.
Not all fitness and medical experts have a solid foundation in psychology and spiritual wellness, but our constant encounter with clients or patients, based on how we present ourselves as role models, what we say to them, and what we do even in our private lives, can have a direct and positive influence in their thoughts and feelings.
In our own little way, we contribute to people’s overall well-being.
According to Peter Davis, creator of IDEA’s “Exercise Your Happiness” program, to meaningfully change our clients’ lives, we should consider our selves not only as fitness professionals but happiness professionals, too.
What is happiness?
The June 2011 issue of “IDEA Fitness Journal” presented various definitions of happiness by positive psychology experts:
Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, presents in his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being,” a broader model of the well-being theory, called Perma. This model encompasses five measurable elements that constitute human flourishing: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment.
According to a study published in the “Review of General Psychology” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s leading researchers on happiness, 40 percent of our happiness is within our power to change through the ways we think and act. This shows that we have the power to decide and act on our happiness. The other 50 percent can be credited to a genetic set point or baseline.
Meanwhile, research published in “Psychological Bulletin” by psychology professor and senior scientist Ed Diener suggests that only about 10 percent of our happiness is associated with life circumstances such as money, beauty, marriage and health. This implies that many transformations we create in our lives can make us only 10 percent happier, but we can still do something about it.
According to Diener, there is a growing body of evidence that happiness is beneficial for one’s survival of illness and longevity. In his 2011 review, he concluded that high subjective well-being may add 4-10 years of life compared with low subjective well-being.
A study published in the “Archives of General Psychiatry” that tracked over 6,000 men and women for 20 years shows that that emotional vitality (sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional stability) appears to lessen the chance of coronary heart disease.
Aside from better physical health and longer life, Lyubomirsky reports in her book, “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want,” that the other consequences of happiness include higher income, greater productivity and higher quality of work, and more satisfying relationships.
Our current emotional state definitely affects how we can strive to improve ourselves (through physical activities and healthy eating for improved physical health), and how we can give more love and service to the people around us (inspire others to improve their lifestyle).
Define your happiness and work on it. What makes you really happy? Think and feel it. If being with and exercising with your special someone makes you smile, then make an effort to communicate your concerns with your partner.
Focus on the positives rather than your flaws, then move on. Stop wasting your time comparing yourself to others. Focus instead on your good traits and even your best physical features and always remember that character is more important than appearance.
Count your blessings and opportunities. As soon as you wake up, thank God for giving you another opportunity to be happy once again. Think of what you have in your life right now and the opportunities you have in the next 24 hours.
This will help you get started on things that you find difficult to pursue, like another day of loving your body by taking care of your health, improving your fitness level and embracing your new lifestyle.
Nourish relationships. Be glad each day for having the most loving and supportive people around you. Return their love and concern by being your most radiant self, possessing the energy and cheerfulness to positively influence them.
Learn from your shortcomings and always be ready to get up and start again. Always consider failures and weaknesses as opportunities and learning experiences to become a better person. The journey to improved health and fitness requires a sustained effort, everyday.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on twitter@mitchfelipe.