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Healthy … happy living

By Dra Maria Alice [email protected]

Dra Maria Alice is a Consultant in General and Family Medicine and Director of the Luzdoc International Medical Service.

Going through the folders in my computer I just found out that ten years have passed since I wrote my first “prescription” for the Algarve Resident. I then wrote…

“33 years ago there was this young, small, blondish, little girl, who came out of medical school and turned into… a little doctor. She felt like… Alice in Wonderland. After some long years of hard work, she had just been given an extraordinary power, she was given the ability to “interfere” with life, was given the password to a magic world, she was allowed to prescribe.

“Prescribing is not easy, it is to lay down rules, directions, to dictate a conduct and, as well, but certainly not only, to list what remedies are to be used.  As time went by the young little doctor became … a more experienced little doctor and her patients gave her several different friendly “nicknames”, like doctor spitfire, the blonde bombshell or the lone ranger with the stethoscope.

But, believe me, she still feels like… Alice in Wonderland … when prescribing, as this is the most difficult thing for any doctor to do, young or old. The more you learn the more you are aware that there is a multitude of factors to take into consideration, the options are innumerable and the smallest detail counts. It is then that the final decision is taken and that decision will make the whole difference between providing, or not providing, what your client came to you for, with great expectations:  Healthy living…”

This year it will be 43 years since this “doctor” came out of university. The old nicknames no longer suit me, but helping people to enjoy  healthy living is still my aim.

This time I decided not to talk about diseases, instead let’s talk about happiness and happy living, as being happy is beyond any doubt a very relevant factor for living a healthy life, avoiding a “full package” of diseases and also improve the ability to fight the ones that one cannot, unfortunately, avoid.

For quite some time, research has indicated that negative emotions are more powerful than positive ones, but positive emotions appear to win out over time, because they let you build on what you have.

From an in-depth money, happiness, and satisfaction study done in 2010, Denmark ranks 1 in life satisfaction, seventh in positive feelings, and fifth in income.

Comparatively, the United States ranks 1 in income but 16th in life satisfaction and 26th on positive feelings.

This should make us think. There is no evidence to show that money is directly related to happiness… or intellect. Studies have found that happier people generally express gratitude on a regular basis, practice being optimistic, engage in frequent acts of kindness, savor joyful events, practice forgiveness and hospitality.

Amazing! In this present world’s reality who would guess that these things would make us happier… and thus, healthier.

Excuse me but I forgot the sunshine. We, in the Algarve, should appreciate… and be happy… for the generous way the sun shines on us, most days.

If I ask at what age are people happiest, what would you answer? 

People are happier, less stressed and feel better about themselves after the age of 50. A recent survey of more than 340,000 people showed overall feelings of well-being improve as people pass middle age.

Researchers report negative emotions such as stress and anger decline after the early 20s, and people over 50 worry less than younger ones. The authors say it may be as simple as this: With age comes increased wisdom and emotional intelligence. It is a fact.

In terms of happiness, mood elevation is associated with a release of serotonin, endorphins (the body’s natural opiates) and oxytocin, also known as the “love/comfort/compassion” hormone.

Another substance, tryptophan, is also relevant for happy feelings but, as the body cannot make it, diet must supply this chemical, which is found in poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

And what makes people happier? Sex or money? Good news for those whose bedrooms have more activity than their bank accounts. Research shows that sex is better for your happiness than money. Overall, the happiest folks are those getting the most sex, married people, who report 30% more between-the-sheet action than single people.

One more thing that helps people gain physical and emotional wellness is music. Music is a healthy way to express oneself.

The rhythm and tone of music can excite you or relax you. Music can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and increase your ability to think, learn, reason, and remember.

Do you think that suppression of sadness is one of the keys to long-term happiness? Wrong! Having a positive outlook does not mean you never allow yourself to feel sadness.

“Happiness is not the absence of sadness,” says David Spiegel, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Phony happiness is not good.” By suppressing sadness, you suppress other, more positive emotions as well, he says, so people who try to suppress emotions actually become more anxious and depressed.

What do laughter and comedy do for the human body? Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.

Other research at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally, expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.

After all it is simple. Take some positive emotions, a lot of gratitude, a good dose of sunshine,  a large amount of wisdom, good music, be realistic, laugh as much as possible, do not forget sex (if suitable…) and you do not need to spend money to build a healthier, happier life. At least not a lot…

Knowing what has to be done is rarely equal to taking the decision to do it and even less in actually succeeding to do it. But we can try.

Best healthy wishes,

Dr. Maria Alice

Consultant in General and Family Medicine

General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service

Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve

To get in contact with Dra Maria Alice, please call Luzdoc at 282 780 700 or email [email protected] Alternatively, visit the LuzDoc website by clicking the link on the right of this page