It ever was thus but now more than ever we need to hear and acknowledge that joyous truth of a seanfocail ‘Maireann croí éadrom a bhfad – A light heart lives a long time’. Yes a light heart, a heart unburdened by the heaviness of worry and pain, a heart filled with joy and hope, that’s the secret to a long life and even better to a good life.
Ok so this is a “don’t worry – be happy” proverb but it’s not saying abandon intellectual engagement, concern or compassion and instead become blasé and trivial – it is simply acknowledging the fact not only does stress kill but that happiness lengthens your life. Laying your burdens down, not picking up more tiny and unnecessary concerns is beneficial to health and longevity. Bringing more joy and peace into your heart/life will lengthen your life.
Life is short but is too long to be miserable in. A burdened heart gets less joy from life, gets jaded quicker and loses the will to live or fight illness when it comes. A light heart however, well that keeps its pulse. So seek the happy, bathe in the positive, laugh, love, enjoy. Live!!
Happiness lengthens life … how? Well OK, happiness means different things to different people or should I say job satisfaction or communal engagement is not on everybody’s radar. You can be a happy hermit. It is a state of mind, a self-perception – some achieve it by a positive evaluation of their life, some by redefining their expectations of success, some by carefree non-evaluation living, some have work/life balance ticked, others believe it is simply their innate disposition.
For certain we can say that happiness is not an equation. For certain we can say that happiness is difficult to measure, but we can all acknowledge that it is easy to recognise. You can’t miss happiness when you see it in others – it shines through. It permeates their whole being.
Happiness is a positive emotion – if you are experiencing it then you are not experiencing negative emotions. Happiness generates a sense of wellbeing as well as interrupting sensations of non-wellbeing. It triggers not just psychological but also physiological wellness. Those triggered endorphins really do some good.
Feeling happy decreases awareness of pain but also lower levels of inflammatory gene expression, feeling happy also facilitates stronger antibody responses thus boosting your immune system and further sustaining wellness. Having a laugh, smiling more, doing activities that bring you satisfaction or joy are all life extension tools.
Here are two simple exercises to make a start on it
Smile. It doesn’t have to be to anybody, it doesn’t even have to be to yourself in a mirror. Just put a smile on your face for 30 seconds, notice how it makes you want to smile for real. Think of a fond memory or loved one, go with it. Truly smile. Make a silent vow to smile more often.
When we smile or even just make that upward curve of a pretend smile, the corners of our mouth – or the zygomaticus major muscles to be exact – signal the brain to release all the same pleasure chemicals that we get when we see a beautiful sunset or eat a wonderful meal – the joy reward. The light heart reaping its harvest.
Laugh. You don’t have to force this one. You may laugh all the time at work, with friends and so on but this exercise is about noticing/getting the sensation not the punchline. Simply take some time out to watch a funny film or select a comedic TV boxset or hilarious podcast, one that you know always makes you laugh. Partake as you would normally, don’t anticipate, just go with it and when laughs happen, notice your sense of wellbeing. Don’t try to exaggerate the laugh. Just enjoy the ones that arise, feel how they do you good. Acknowledge and enjoy.
Laughing literally shakes us up and on a health trick actually works out muscles not just of the face but of the diaphragm, lungs, abdominals and even shoulder, back and legs – which all burn calories and help to lower blood pressure. It oxygenates the heart and the brain, boosting circulation and cognitive function. Laughter is also a trigger to positive endorphins and good mood chemicals. Laughter is the trigger to and the receipt of that joy reward. The light heart reaping its harvest again.