We’ve all experienced the discomfort and pain of being sick or injured. It’s definitely not pleasant, and many of us would probably say that when we’re in pain, we’re not happy. Even though the pursuit of happiness is about developing a state of being, inner peace, and healthy relationships, doctors and scientists have also discovered that our state of health plays a role in our happiness. Specifically, it’s the state of our immune systems that can either increase the risk of depression and mental illness, or increase our feeling of peace and happiness.
Quinolinic acid, which is produced by immune cells called macrophages, is found in elevated levels in people who suffer from depression and other mental and psychiatric disorders. These high levels indicate that the immune system has been very active or overactive. Studies with mice have also shown that an overactive immune response as well as an increase in inflammation leads to depression. Chronic inflammation itself can damage the body, including the brain, which could also lead to mental illness.
Besides doing the inner spiritual and emotional work to experience happiness, we need to take care of our bodies. Our bodies are our vehicles to experience life, and if we maintain them as best as we can, they can contribute to our state of happiness. Though many of us are healthy, many of us are not. All of us, however, can hydrate our bodies well, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (which have been shown to help increase happiness because of how they support and bolster the immune system), cut down on or eliminate ingesting meat and toxins (which trigger an inflammatory and immune response), try to avoid illness and injury, and get treated properly when we do get sick or injured.
It’s that time of year when many of us make our New Year’s resolutions, which are usually things that we think will make us happy. Let’s all put taking care of our health at the top of our lists. May we all truly have a Happy New Year!