Health and Happiness

Are you getting your daily dose of happiness? Here, Mona Muresan explains why happiness is important to your health.

May 31, 2013
Health and Happiness

As someone who has been in the health business for years, I’ve seen the fads—workouts, diets, theories—come and go, but the most important factor to long-term health is almost always overlooked: happiness. Happiness is the key to a longer, stronger, and healthier life, and is just as important to a consistent and successful exercise routine as proper nutrition. It’s cyclical: When you’re happy, you exercise, and when you exercise, the results and positive feelings further encourage you to keep up with your routine. It’s not always easy. At times, everyone has that “please just let me get through this!” feeling, but try to remember the benefits. That sense of accomplishment and boost of energy will always carry you through your day.

That post-exercise feeling is, of course, caused by a release of endorphins and a boost to your immune system. Think of exercise— or lack of—as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re sad or anxious, the instinct is to skip workouts and eat unhealthy food, which then affects sleep quality and overall energy. The result: eating more and moving less, not to mention a surge in the production of the “stress” hormone cortisol. In fact, studies show that cortisol levels are directly responsible for excess belly fat; this also increases risk of heart disease. On the contrary, a happy mood keeps hormones in balance, which ups calorie burn, increases muscle mass and encourages recuperation with deeper and more restful sleep.

Nutrition is the other side of the happiness coin. In fact, a recent study out of the U.K. links fruit and vegetable consumption to increased happiness and overall mental well-being (pssst: 7 servings a day equals happiness)! I have my little indulgences at times, but too many in a row and I’m facing a downward spiral. I understand my personal formula by now: One bad meal is OK; two, and I tell myself I’ll get back on the clean-eating wagon tomorrow. By the third slip, I’m disappointed and my mood dips by the hour. I know I’m not alone—everyone ebbs and flows between their good and bad habits. The good news is, it doesn’t take much to get back on track; one day of clean eating and hard training and I’m back on the happy wagon. We all need to figure out what it takes for each of us to snap out of our funks. For some people it’s hard cardio and intense resistance, for others, a long bike ride or an hour of yoga can be reinvigorating.

To me, happiness means looking at the big picture. Now that the holiday season is over, we’re getting reacquainted with what really matters in our lives. Our goal at Muscle & Fitness Hers is to provide you with the tips, tools, and inspiration to stay fit and happy. Besides the obvious advice of training hard and eating well, we also want to encourage you to walk with your head held high, remember to smile, and help someone in need, just because. Putting it all in perspective is the key to living a long, healthy, and happy life.

Yours in fitness,
Mona Muresan,