How Happiness Affects Your Health

Make 'me time' to care for yourself – inside and out.

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Think you’d be happier if you looked like an airbrushed supermodel or if you lost ten pounds by summer? Think again. The truth is, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Size diversity comes down to science and our genetic footprint. Our DNA is what makes us unique, and there is no one perfect size for everybody. I know I'm not the only one who feels strongly that finding your best health and wellness is about more than a size or a number on a scale. It’s about finding a healthy balance, learning how to cultivate healthy habits and accepting ourselves as we are.

A few weeks ago, I taped interview segments for the OWN Show. I talked about a variety of health and nutrition issues, but the one theme that kept coming up was the influence of happiness on your health. Throughout these segments, I share my thoughts on how scheduling your own “happy hours” – and I’m not talking about the 5 o’clock drink specials – can have a tremendous, positive impact on your health. You can watch the full clip here and read below to find out how setting your own happy hour can improve your health and happiness – without an ounce of guilt! 

The Link to Health and Happiness

When you’re happy, you’re more likely to stick to your healthy habits, such as exercising and eating well. In turn, these habits engage the hormones and neurotransmitters that influence your happiness. When your mood is down, you’re more likely to skip workouts, do some heavy-duty emotional overeating and have difficulty sleeping. While temporary stress often suppresses our appetite, chronic stress has been found to increase appetite and food cravings, and that in turn leads to weight gain. Because stress is very difficult to avoid, the key is to learn the right methods to cope with it before it negatively affects your health.

[Read: Beat Work Stress in a Minute or Less.]

Get Moving to Get Happy

Exercise decreases the body’s level of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), while increasing levels of feel-good endorphins (serotonin and dopamine). Set fitness goals, such as achieving a personal record in a race or mastering a new yoga pose. As you feel stronger and gain stamina, you'll probably see a boost in self-esteem, pride and confidence.

Make a “Me Time” List

Whether it’s a 10-minute break or a 60-minute “happy hour," finding time for yourself every day will make you a happier and healthier person. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Break a sweat.
  • Take a bath.
  • Spend some quiet time with a good book and a cup of tea.
  • Catch up on your favorite mindless TV show. An hour of TV never killed anyone!
  • Schedule a manicure and pedicure with a friend.
  • Meditate or do a few of your favorite yoga postures.
  • Make a new workout playlist.
  • Watch funny videos on the Internet.
  • Catch up on your favorite blogs, magazines or newspapers.
  • Attempt to finish the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

Don't Spread Yourself Too Thin

To avoid feeling stressed or overwhelmed, set priorities and have realistic expectations for yourself. Downsize your to-do list – or even better – make a to-don’t list. While it's important to be there for the people around you, the world won’t end if you say “no” to them and “yes” to yourself. 

[Read: How to Stop Feeling Selfish About 'Me Time.']