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Health, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica, Columnist

Dr. Mao's Wellness Living: Get Happy To Live A Longer Life

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Dec. 22, 2013, 9:46 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

Science has confirmed that happier people do indeed live longer. The question is: how to get happy? On one hand, the holiday season is filled with the joy of friends and family and the warm glow of celebration; on the other hand, the holidays can also be stressful, and these shorter, darker days of winter can give way to seasonal mood disorders from lack of sun. Despite this, you can be happy right now. Here are four tips to keep your winter full of seasonal cheer!

The Science Of Happiness

It has long been observed that happy people are less prone to heart disease, and science agrees. One study demonstrated that one in five patients with coronary heart disease comes from the population of the severely depressed. Cancer researchers have found that laughter and joy increase levels of natural killer immune cells.

Laughter also increases the release of endorphins – compounds in your brain that give you a warm and fuzzy sense of well-being. Joyful people truly do live longer and healthier lives.

1. Self-Awareness Leads to Happiness

My father, Hua-Ching Ni, has some very wise advice about how to attain happiness. As he says, “Thoughts become words, words become acts, acts become habits, habits express your character and your character becomes your destiny.”

Imagine if your thoughts were positive: you would feel happy most of the time! On the reverse side, negative thoughts release enzymes that attack your immune system, which can lead to disease.

Observe your thoughts and train your mind to hold positive thoughts. How? Use self-awareness to see your thoughts and to observe which ones make you happy or unhappy. Your mind, and by extension, your mood, reflect the activity of your thoughts, which are influenced by your emotions.

To change your mood, actively gain control of your thoughts and emotions. Here is a sentence you can repeat to yourself as often as necessary: “From now on, I am the one who decides how I am going to respond.”

You might not be able to change your whole attitude overnight, but over time, your self-awareness will develop and your happiness will grow.

You can also use therapeutic herbs to keep the unhappy thoughts at bay. Calmfort is an herbal blend that helps you experience more inner peace and increases the body’s ability to cope with stress.

2. Foods That Promote Happiness

Every day, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, to get happy. These foods are high in folate, a natural B-vitamin that helps the brain make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with happiness.

Many studies have linked low levels of folate and serotonin to depression. Beet greens, chard, and other green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli are other good sources of folate. Also, omega-3s play a critical role in brain function and can help elevate your moods.

Get a brain and mood boost from omega-3 rich flaxseed oils and oily fish, including mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna. Just be sure you are getting fish that is free from mercury and other dangerous substances.

3. Wake Up With A Smile

Every morning, wake up and hold a big smile on your face, even if you aren’t feeling particularly cheerful. Believe it or not, just moving your muscles into a smile will increase endorphins and decrease the stress hormone cortisol that the adrenal gland releases in times of stress.

Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself in the mirror to heighten the happiness. Say to yourself something along the lines of, “I am proactive. I am diligent. I can handle the tasks I have ahead of me. I enjoy my responsibilities and fulfill them well.” Does this sound silly? It turns out positive affirmations can also help suppress cortisol.

4. Get On The Bright Side

Make use of the rays you’ve got! Try to get outside for 20 minutes of sunshine every day. Studies show that sunlight exposure helps stimulate your pineal gland, a small gland located behind your forehead that produces a hormone called melatonin.

Melatonin plays a role in keeping our body clock on time, and helps regulate our inner rhythmic cycles – the circadian rhythm that controls your appetite, sleep and sex hormones. Your pineal gland also affects the production of other brain chemicals, including serotonin.

By getting the right amount of sunlight throughout the seasons, you can improve your mood and prevent SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, a depression that is associated with too little sunlight in the winter months. Is there just not enough sun? My recommendation is that you use full-spectrum sun lamps, which have been found to correct the effects of SAD and give your mood a lift. Even in the winter, the sun’s rays can be stronger than you think; try to get your 20 minutes in before 10am or after 2pm.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at contact@taoofwellness.com. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter, visit www.taoofwellness.com.

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