Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hypothesis: Health Causes Happiness.

We all know that it's important to eat right, exercise, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep, if we want to be healthy. But, if it's so important...why don't more of us do it?

I think it's because being healthy isn't a clear goal for most of us. That's why the authors of the Declaration of Independence didn't list our inalienable rights as, "life, liberty and the pursuit of healthiness."

We think of health as a kind of default setting, something you have until you lose it...not something you work towards. What if instead, we thought of health the same way some of us think about money? What if we recognized that it's easier and more effective to build upon what we already have, rather than try and get it back after we've lost it?

(As a side note, I'd like to suggest we think about love this way too. I'm sure it would lower the divorce rate.)

If we really wanted to decrease our chances of future suffering, that's what we'd do, build upon our current stores of love, health and money. But, with some exceptions, most of us don't invest in the stock market or contribute to a pension fund because we want to decrease our chances of future suffering. We work to get more money because there is a real and recognized satisfaction that comes from simply having more money. We think more money will make us happier. Whether it will or not is a subject of debate that I'm not going to get into here. Wealth is not my topic, health is.

And here's my hypothesis: Being healthier really does make us happier.

I don't know if social scientists or medical researchers have looked in to this already. A quick search on Google brings up lots of articles that list "Health and Happiness" together as twin blessings, but do not discuss the connection between them. And one 2006 study done at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that being happy causes people to be more healthy, not the other way around.

Since I'm not a scientist or researcher, I'm not going to be able to study a large enough group of people to make a definitive assessment for the general population. I can, however, make a definitive assessment for myself.

So for the duration of this experiment I'm going to eat right, exercise daily, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep. I expect to find that my increasing health will correspond with increasing happiness. If it does, I plan on continuing to do these things. After all, what could be more important than being happy?

If it doesn't, I'll go back to eating french fries and cookies, watching TV, drinking wine and soda and staying up late! It may not make me any happier, but it sounds like fun, doesn't it?

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