Living happy…living healthy!

Healthy living is what any client comes to the doctor for. Happy living is, beyond any doubt, a very relevant factor for living a healthy life, avoiding a “full package” of diseases and also improving the ability to fight the ones that we cannot, unfortunately, avoid.

Studies have found that happier people generally express gratitude on a regular basis, practice being optimistic, engage in frequent acts of kindness, practice forgiveness.

Amazing! Who would guess that these things would make us happier and thus, healthier?

Excuse me, I forgot the sunshine!

We, in the Algarve, should appreciate and be happy for the generous way the sun shines on us, most days.

At what age are people happiest? Researchers report that negative emotions such as stress and anger decline after the early 20s, and people over 50 worry less than younger ones. People are happier, less stressed and feel better about themselves after the age of 50! Overall, feelings of wellbeing improve as people pass middle age.

It may be as simple as this: with age comes increased wisdom and emotional intelligence.

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, yoghurt, fish, and eggs.

And what makes people happier? Sex or money? Good news for those whose bedrooms have more activity than their bank accounts as research shows that sex is better for 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.

And what about music? Music helps people gain physical and emotional wellness and is a healthy way to express yourself. The rhythm and tone of music can excite you or relax you. Music can help reduce the heart rate and blood pressure and increase the ability to think, learn, reason, and remember. Having a positive outlook does not mean you never allow yourself to feel sadness and 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 humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells. Other research 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.

The outbreak of Coronavirus has changed our lives in many ways, so it is completely normal to feel anxious and stressed as nobody knows very well what will be happening tomorrow.

While it is crucial to practice social distancing and self-isolation, it may result in social loneliness as face-to-face interaction has been restricted significantly over the past few months. We are social beings, therefore, loneliness and sadness can occur as a result.

In difficult, challenging times like these, it is more important than ever to take care of our mental health and wellbeing. Keep a healthy and balanced diet as it may help boost the immune system to help fight infections. Stay active as it can be as simple as taking a short walk around your backyard, gardening, cleaning your home environment, knitting and cooking. Keep yourself busy and entertained as it is very important.

Use the new technology we have now available to stay connected, keeping in touch with friends and family and stay informed, getting the right information from reliable sources.

Health in its broader sense is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing”, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

The British Medical Journey (BMJ) says there are fewer cases of colds, flu, and bronchitis!

This year, cases of common cold, flu, and other respiratory diseases are, so far, substantially lower than average for this time of year. The lockdown and physical distancing measures and the increased public emphasis on maintaining good hygiene to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were the probable cause.

This shows the importance of maintaining good hygiene measures to protect not only against Covid-19 but also other common winter illnesses.

It is easy to perceive that masks do a good job avoiding the spread of air borne diseases!

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 will build a healthier, happier life even during the pandemic.

Knowing what has to be done is rarely equal to taking the decision to do it and even less, succeeding to do it in the actual circunstances. But we must all try.
Living life is a challenge, but it is good and worth fighting for, whatever happens.

Best health wishes,
Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve/ Hospital S. Gonçalo de Lagos