When You're Happy, This Is What Really Happens To Your Body

"Don't worry, be happy." This lyrical advice may sound simplistic, but as it turns out, it's a solid suggestion. Surprisingly, happiness has a huge effect on your health. Being in a bad mood can have quite an adverse effect on your body, too. "Your mood and mindset can cause physical ailments," psychologist Dr. Cali Estes told Health Digest. From heart disease to high blood pressure to even insomnia, happiness seems to be the key to curing it all. "Long term unhappiness can wreak havoc, while happiness can almost heal your body," Dr. Estes added.

Yes, we all get stressed, but happy people tend to take it in stride. "People who have higher happiness levels at baseline respond just like everyone else but recover back to their physiologic baseline much more quickly," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told us. It makes sense. A positive attitude can keep your blood from boiling.

Even if you aren't feeling so cheerful today, you'll for sure be smiling once you hear how many benefits a good mood can create in your body. Here's what really happens to your body when you're happy.

Being happy helps you sleep better

If you find yourself staring up at the ceiling instead of falling asleep each night, you may need a mood boost. Yes, happy people tend to sleep better. "Being happy, or being in a comfortable state of mind, is effective in putting you to sleep because your stress hormones and your emotionally vigilant brain is not actively looking out for danger," neurologist Dean Sherzai explained to Health Digest.

Good sleep is essential in order for the brain to function properly too. "Sleep serves two main purposes," Dr. Sherzai said. "To help consolidate memory and organize thought, and to help cleanse the brain." Each night, you cycle through multiple sleep phases and, surprisingly, your mood has an effect on almost all of the sleep phases your body enters. If you're stressed, you're almost certainly not getting a good night's rest.

On the other hand, when you fall asleep happy, "your state of mind tells you that there is no threat, that all is well, and that this is a good time and place to rest and sleep without any fear of danger to your body," Dr. Sherzai added.

You'll likely have lower blood pressure if you're happy

While happiness is busy helping us lower our stress levels, it's also keeping our blood pressure from rising. Aside from the obvious fact that happy people are less stressed, there are a few explanations for why this happens. While we all know happiness comes from the heart, so to speak, the science behind it has to do with your literal heart too.

Happy people have been found to show "a decrease in variability of the heartbeat," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, exclusively told Health Digest. An abnormal heartbeat can even lead to other long-term issues that are brought about by high blood pressure, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Happiness has also been found to lower one's pulse, which is definitely important when it comes to bringing down your blood pressure. "[This] actually is the mechanism of action of one of the most commonly used antihypertensive medications, beta blockers," Dr. Searles said. It brings a new meaning to the term "happy pill."

Being happy will boost your immune system

There are a lot of reasons why happy people are a lot healthier than most, and one of them is because they're sick a lot less often. That's right, happiness has quite an effect on your immune system. When we find ourselves in a good mood, we tend to stress less. "Less stress means that your body is not producing high amounts of cortisol," clinical psychologist Dr. Cali Estes told Health Digest. This chemical is known to suppress our immune systems, so being happy could just be what prevents you from catching the common cold.

While this is one way happiness can help keep sickness at bay, there is another possible explanation about how cortisol affects us. "One hypothesis is that it lowers markers of inflammation in the body," clinical psychologist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff added. This may not have you convinced to exchange your multivitamin for a good mood, but being happy can go a long way when it comes to staying healthy.

Happiness could help manage your diabetes

"Sometimes when a patient's laboratory studies are telling us that their diabetes is getting worse, it may actually be a reflection of worsening mood rather than worsening diabetes," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told Health Digest. It may sound hard to believe, but a good mood could really be one way to help manage your high blood sugar. Many times, a poor mood can also have us making poor decisions when it comes to the foods we choose to eat. Let's face it: You're probably reaching for a pint of ice cream when you've had a bad day, not a fruit or veggie.

Your mental health is important. Even for a practicing physician, it's important to help someone manage their mood before making any medical decisions. "When we don't make this connection we can find ourselves treating disease instead of focusing on finding happiness which can have a powerful impact on our health," Dr. Searles said.

You're more likely to be physically fit if you're a happy person

How you feel about your looks can affect your happiness, but who knew that the reverse is true too? "People who are happier or more likely to engage in the kinds of activities that promote emotional and physical well being," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told Health Digest. So it only makes sense that happy people take the extra time to exercise.

People who are happy may be able to get more out of their workouts too. "You will get more reps in, more steps in or more yoga in," clinical psychologist Dr. Cali Estes told us. That's because working out increases the amount of serotonin and dopamine that our brains make, two of the four happy chemicals that our brains constantly crave. This explains why many people claim that exercise quickly becomes addictive.

If thinking about hitting the gym isn't such a happy thought, Dr. Estes suggests cranking up your favorite tunes as you work on getting toned. "The music makes their serotonin go up and they feel happy," she said.

Happiness can reduce your risk of a stroke

While being happy makes us less stressed, it can also reduce our risk of having a stroke. "To understand this phenomenon, one has to go into the mechanism behind the risk factors for stroke," neurologist Dean Sherzai said.

High blood pressure and irregular heartbeats are two factors that play a big role on a pathway in the brain called the limbic cascade — a key part in managing our moods. "At any moment, depending on what it has just felt (happy or sad) it sends a different message to the hypothalamus," Dr. Sherzai explained. The hypothalamus then communicates with the pituitary, which sends certain hormones into our bodies. One thing that hormones do is help with blood flow, which is important when it comes to keeping us from developing a stroke.

When this system is working correctly, the rest of our body falls in line. "So how we feel from moment to moment — whether we are happy or sad or angry has profound effects on our entire body," Dr. Sherzai said. "Especially our blood pressure, heart rate, and even clotting. These, over time, can tremendously increase one's risk for a stroke."

Being happy promotes wound healing

"When it comes to wound healing, from surgeries or other injuries, the body's stress response has been shown to impair wound healing processes," Dr. Kaz J. Nelson, psychiatrist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told Health Digest. On the other hand, happiness has been found to have healing power.

Dr. Nelson cited a study published in The Lancet, in which participants were monitored to see how quickly their wounds healed while performing a stressful job. Researchers found that those in the overwhelming role took 24 percent more time to heal. "This is believed to happen because stress directly impacts the body's immune system through many healing pathways," Dr. Nelson explained, "including changes in the inflammatory response and changes in other signaling chemicals necessary for healing."

Additionally, getting enough sleep also helps the healing process, which is something that happy people tend to get more of. A good mood also creates more endogenous serotonin in the body — and "there is a direct link between elevated serotonin levels and faster and improved wound healing," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told us.

Your body becomes addicted to being happy

Because of all the incredible benefits our bodies receive from being happy, it's no wonder we crave feeling good. While this may seem obvious to us — after all, who doesn't like to be happy? — there really is a scientific reason why being in such a sweet mood is similar to craving a sweet treat. When we are feeling good, our brains make more of the happy chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. This "in turn makes your brain want more happy chemicals," clinical psychologist Dr. Cali Estes revealed in an exclusive interview with Health Digest. Happiness really is addictive, she tells us. "In a good way," she clarified.

Even just surrounding ourselves with happy people can prompt our brains to speed up the process of developing these specific chemicals. Yes, happiness is not only addictive, but it is contagious. And it's the only "illness" we will be happy to catch.

You may be more easily able to focus on tasks if you're happy

When you're stressed, you probably find your mind wandering. "What affects focus the most is one's emotional state," neurologist Dean Sherzai explained to Health Digest. Because happy people tend to live more in the moment, it only makes sense that they're more focused on what's in front of them. While failing to pay attention may not seem all that bad at times, focus is very important.

If a bad mood is stopping you from focusing, that means you're not able to properly retrieve information, memorize facts, solve problems, or be creative to your full potential. "It is much more challenging to concentrate and think critically when the stress response system is activated or working to survive," Dr. Kaz J. Nelson, psychiatrist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told us.  

However, a good mood can boost your brain power immensely over the course of your life. "By creating a happy mind, by working on activities that build an emotional infrastructure of happiness, you are not simply enjoying life, but actually helping build better focus and cognition and brain capacity over time," Dr. Sherzai said.

You're more likely to eat healthier if you're happy

While you may think a slice of chocolate cake would make you happier than, say, leafy greens, happy people often find themselves eating healthily. "Happy people tend to be 'future oriented' and make decisions in the moment that are healthier," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, explained to Health Digest.  

Because happy people are more involved in doing what it takes to take care of themselves, they more often than not are dedicated to taking time to make a healthy meal. Doing this on a daily basis can help them stay healthier over the course of their lives. Choosing a nutrient-rich snack instead of a sweet treat can even help you from developing serious long term health problems. "Type 2 diabetes risk is made much lower if you eat a healthy diet," Dr. Searles said.

You'll likely have fewer aches and pains if you're happy

Dealing with aches and pains can put anybody in a bad mood. However, who knew that a good mood can actually help rid yourself of aches altogether? It almost seems too good to be true, but because the brain and the body are connected in so many different ways, it makes sense. When you're under a lot of stress, your nervous system and endocrine system respond to help get you out of danger. "People experience this as changes in breathing, heart rate, concentration, energy, sleep, appetite and other changes such as physical pain," Dr. Kaz J. Nelson, psychiatrist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, explained exclusively to Health Digest. When we're happy, however, we can help ourselves avoid experiencing any unnecessary pain in the first place.

Being in an unhappy state contributes to wear and tear on our bodies and can get even worse over time. "With very intense or ongoing stress, this stress response can have a number of direct consequences to health," Dr. Nelson said, "including chronic diseases which can lead to death."

Happiness makes the heart healthy

Although happy people tend to eat healthier and exercise more, Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, explained that "not every 'happy' person makes that choice. Plenty of happy people are rocking Krispy Kreme doughnut."  Luckily, whether you enjoy eating healthy or not, there's another reason that being happy can help you maintain a healthy heart.

It all has to do with cortisol, the chemical that our bodies produce in excess when we're stressed. "Healthy and happy individuals are able to maintain a hormonal balance of cortisol," clinical psychologist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff told Health Digest. Cortisol is the chemical to blame for increasing our blood sugar, creating hypertension, and vascular disease. All of these can later lead to heart disease or — even worse — a heart attack.

"Studies have shown that happy people have nearly 25 percent lower cortisol levels," Dr. Searles said, so if you are hoping for a happy heart, a good mood is a good start. But definitely don't give up eating healthy and exercising too.

Happiness may give you clearer skin

While happy people tend to have clearer minds, they also happen to have clearer skin. Much of this has to do with the fact that happy people tend to take better care of themselves. Between getting enough sleep and eating better compared to someone who's often in a bad mood, a happy person's immune system is in tiptop shape. This makes them more easily able to prevent swelling in their skin. "Stress causes inflammation in the body and lowers our immune system's ability to fight infections (including acne)," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Friedler exclusively told Health Digest.

Stress causes the body to release excess enzymes that can break down collagen in your skin. Interestingly, happiness can then help prevent wrinkles and premature aging. "More inflammation also leads to increased wrinkling and photodamage," Dr. Friedler added. Now it makes sense why happy people's skin always seems to be glowing!

You'll likely live longer if you're a happy person

Because of all of the long-term benefits that happiness can help us obtain, it's no wonder that happier people live longer lives. "Certainly having lower levels of stress hormones is part of the equation," Dr. Chris Searles, family physician, psychiatrist, and professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, told Health Digest. After all, with your body making less cortisol — the stress hormone that is so hard on your body — you're bound to have healthier organs.

Not only is happiness associated with less stress, but a good mood can keep you from developing long-term diseases that can shorten your life. Both having a healthy immune system and a smaller chance of developing cardiovascular disease "lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer which are among the leading causes of death in the U.S.," Dr. Searles said. Happy people certainly seem to be successfully set to lead long, healthy lives. If that's not something to smile about, then we don't know what is.