Happiness and the human mind
By The Nutrition Expert editorial teamwith expert comment from Dr Meg Arroll
Published Date: 23/03/2017
At a White House conference on
ageing in 1961, Senator Robert Kennedy poignantly stated, ‘We have added years to life; it is time to think about how we add life
Fifty six years later and we
couldn’t agree more.
The only problem is that adding
life to our years stems from an ability to make the most of the present,
something that the human race increasingly has trouble doing.
We have all developed a mindset
whereby happiness is associated with an end goal of perfection, failing to
realise that obsessing over an unachievable goal of perfect health, a perfect
work life and a perfect social life is not only unhealthy, but also means we
miss out on many of life’s simple pleasures.
So how can we learn to immerse ourselves
in the present as opposed to hopelessly looking towards the future?
Phycologist Dr Meg Arroll is here
us feel happy?
It really is
the simple things in life that make us feel happy – spending time with loved
ones, enjoying a long walk outdoors, laughing and even caring for a pet.
are some vitamins and minerals (or rather lack of) that might be affecting our
happiness levels. A deficiency in vitamin D is linked with feeling blue. Around
half of the UK’s adult population do not have sufficient amounts of vitamin D,
with 16% of people being severely deficient in winter and springtime.
In older adults, severe deficiency is even more common with 58% of older people
have very low levels of vitamin D.
Do you think
people put too much emphasis on being ‘happy’?
philosopher John Stuart Mills once said that people who are supposedly ‘happy’
are people that focus on the happiness of others, or on the improvement of
mankind, or even on some kind of artistic pursuit.
words they don’t solely focus on themselves.
much on this ‘thing’ known as happiness can actually lead to feelings of
dissatisfaction, frustration or even depression.
has become yet another thing that we must ‘do’. But happiness isn’t something
we can ‘do’, it is the by-product of other positive acts.
media have anything to do with this?
Media can encourage
us to compare ourselves with others. When we compare ourselves to friends and
family, we know that they have imperfections and make mistakes. But in the
media, it may seem like others are perfect and this can make us feel
inadequate, flawed and frankly just a bit rubbish. This is one reason why it is
a good idea to take a break from looking outwards and use mindfulness to focus
back in on ourselves.
something to say for the phrase ‘living in the moment’?
mindfulness to be ‘present in the moment’ has been found to have numerus health
benefits. Mindfulness not only helps with low mood, anxiety and can allow
people to deal more effectively with stressful situations, it can also benefit
physical health problems and give us the mental space to develop a sense of
the things in our lives that we cannot change, while committing to the small,
daily changes that we can make, can fundamentally change our outlook and our
emotional and physical health.
answer is yes – there is something to say for the phrase ‘living in the
What we do not wish to suggest is
that everyone should be happy twenty four seven. We all have days when we feel
a little bit low, just as we all have days when we feel inexplicably happy.
But practicing mindfulness and
exercising your ability to make the most of the present will leave you feeling
appreciative of what you have.
E. and Power, C., 2007. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45 y:
nationwide cohort study of dietary and lifestyle predictors. The
American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(3), pp.860-868.
C.H., Sheline, Y.I., Roe, C.M., Birge, S.J. and Morris, J.C., 2006. Vitamin D
deficiency is associated with low mood and worse cognitive performance in older
adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14(12),