I ran my slowest half-marathon race last weekend. But, I couldn't be happier about it.
Find your joy. For your own good. There is a growing body of research which indicates that happiness and optimism reduce your risk of illness, increase the likelihood of surviving illness, and increase your lifespan.
(I swear I just heard someone muttering under their breath, "There's a real discovery, Sherlock.")
A 2011 study authored by Ed Diener and Micaela Chan reviewed more than 160 other germane studies and came to the conclusion that, "health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states." They point to high subjective well-being as the way to turn the odds in your favor with blood pressure, inflammation, thickening of arterial walls, and cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.
Pick up a copy of the book, The How of Happiness: A Scienctific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin 2007) by Sonja Lyubomirsky. In it you will find specific strategies to help you count your blessings, savor the joyful times in your life, learn to forgive, cope with difficulties, and take care of your body and spirit, among others.
Do you have the good fortune to earn your living doing something that brings you joy and feeds your soul?
Many will find themselves saying their career is built around something they're good at, which also happens to provide a decent wage. A few of us are blessed with a passion for what we do for a living.
So we have hobbies and pasttimes and part time endeavors to bring us joy. Perhaps it brings us a sense of peace and calm, as opposed to mighty heights of gaiety or vigor.
You don't have to be maniacally ecstatic to enjoy robust health. Maintaining optimism and making daily choices with upbeat intentions are good for you, but chasing an almighty-never-ending-high, or a complete avoidance of upset are not particularly healthy.
I choose to be happy with my slow half-marathon performance because 6 weeks ago I hurt my foot in an accidental fall. So I feel grateful to be running so long a distance without pain, with such a short time spent rehabbing. And I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent running and talking with Nicole, Janis, and Jennifer along those miles. It was time well spent with really nice people I have something in common with, and who I would like to get to know even better. (Cultivating supportive relationships is another one of the strategies in the aforementioned book, The How of Happiness.)
Everybody has a different path to their happy place. I hope you find yours and travel that path often enough to enjoy a long and happy life.
Diener, E., & Chan, M.Y. 2011. Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3 (1), 1-43.