U.S. Surgeon General Prescribes Happiness, Meditation, Love

by | Jan 6, 2016

Happiness can help people lead healthier, more fulfilling lives, says U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, citing research that shows happiness can lower risk of heart attack and stroke, lower stress hormones and inflammatory markers and increase the chance of living longer.

By happiness, Murthy doesn’t mean hedonistic or materialistic pleasures. He’s talking about the emotional well-being that stems from fulfillment, social connection and love.

But does happiness lead to better health? Or is it the other way around—with good health setting the stage for happiness?

Turns out only 10 percent of long-term happiness depends on external factors, Murthy says. The remaining 90 percent stems from your outlook and how you choose to process what life brings you.

Murthy advocates four simple, free habits to increase happiness and improve health: gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and social connectedness.

Cultivating gratitude can be as simple as jotting down three things you’re grateful for every day. Here are more gratitude exercises from Harvard Medical School. And here’s an ABC News story on the benefits of meditation.

Meditation transformed an impoverished, troubled middle school in California after the school instituted twice-daily 15-minute meditations. Within four years, suspensions fell by 45 percent, attendance climbed to 98 percent, 20 percent of graduates were admitted to one of the city’s elite high schools and, in a survey of San Francisco middle school students, students from the once troubled school recorded the highest levels of happiness in the city.

What’s your experience with happiness, health and mindset? Do you practice any habits of mind that help you feel happier? Are you actively cultivating a support network of friends and family?

Visit The Loft at Wellbody Academy and be sure to check out Who Do You Turn To… a cool way to reflect on your social connections by creating a personalized collage about your friends and family with a computer interactive that asks you thought-provoking questions about your relationships: Who could you talk to if you’re upset? Who could you call if you needed a ride? Who confides their hopes, dreams and fears in you?

Learn more about Murthy’s prescription for happiness. And here’s to your own happiness—and health—in the new year!