The Herman Trend Alert
November 9, 2016
The Relationship between Happy and Healthy
Since the 1960s when the McGill University physician Hans Selye wrote the book about stress, we have known about the relationship between stress and disease. We have also long believed that taking adequate time for rest and relaxation leads to staying healthier than not taking enough time for oneself. Ayurvedic physicians will tell you that when a person is "in love", the body is often in a "state of grace", when the person appears to be immune from all disease. But until recently, no one had studied the link between happiness and health outcomes.
Harvard is leading the way
Joy, euphoria, contentment, and satisfaction have all been considered in an effort to study human happiness. Now, once again, Harvard is on the leading edge of thought. Its new Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, underwritten by $21 million, was established to explore a new approach to health maintenance---a marked difference from traditional medicine that focuses on risk factors and treatments for disease.
Primary goal of the center
The center's first step is "to catalog and standardize the measures used to describe and evaluate happiness and related factors". Currently, according to professor Laura Kubzansky, the Lee Kum Kee professor of social and behavioral health, "there are more than 100 different measures already in use for the various forms of well-being". The term "Happiness" usually includes physical, emotional, and social factors.
Finding a relationship between emotional and physical health
The center expects to find proof of a strong correlation between emotional and physical health. Not surprisingly, most people find the topic compelling, but some in the scientific community remain unconvinced. The centers' leaders want to collect so much evidence of the biological connections between emotional and physical health that the link will be taken for granted. The center will also touch on corporate best practices for wellness programs.
What's next for this research?
Finding this correlation is long overdue and is a natural extension of the research we have seen recently into the relationship between the immune response and healthy eating. Given that we know the factors of "happiness" also support a healthy immune system, it is simply a matter of time, before the other relationships are understood. As we move into the future, this research will be an important piece of the puzzle to help physicians and other healthcare professionals prevent disease.
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