THE BLOG
10/11/2014 09:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Want to Be Healthier? Get Happy First

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Happiness, health and success are three things most of us want. The old school of thought is if you chase success and achieve it, you will be happy (however you define it). Turns out, that's backward. Happiness researcher Shawn Achor has found that if you are happy (first), you are more likely to be successful. It makes sense, doesn't it? Happy people are generally more positive and energetic. Happy people see possibilities everywhere and are super productive. Happy people have that "can do" or "I will try it" spirit. If your happiness can direct your life to reach success, guess what else your happiness can do for you? It can make you healthy.

Yep. I am sure you've heard lots of promises in your lifetime of how you can get a healthier lifestyle, but happiness can really do the trick. Here are three reasons why.

1) When you are happy, it's easier to make smarter choices about food. Have you ever heard of a person who was an emotional eater because she was so happy? I haven't either. Food is often used as a source of comfort to stuff stress, a bad day, a major life change, or anxiety of some sort. If you are in a happy place, it's easier to have a healthier relationship with food. You eat to nourish. You eat to energize. You splurge on some ice cream to celebrate a big win in your life and you enjoy every bite guilt-free. You have better control over your food choices, because your happiness is already coming from other sources. You aren't trying to fill a feeling of emptiness.

2) Happy people realize what they eat affects their mood. Ever overindulged in fast food or comfort food (think grandma's mac n' cheese) and afterward, as you are moaning and holding your stomach, ask yourself what you were thinking? You feel stuffed and sluggish. We all know this, but it's good to remember that what you put in to your body is how you feel on the outside. If you put in healthy, fresh ingredients full of nutrients, you will feel healthy and fresh! If you put in junk, you are going to feel like junk. Feed your body healthy ingredients to feel healthy. As author and activist Michael Pollan says, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Sounds simple, but his philosophy works.

3) Happy people have discovered the clean eating-happiness link. The idea behind clean eating is to eat simply. You don't need lots of heavy sauces or sweeteners to make your food taste delicious, you just need fresh and real ingredients. And that doesn't mean you are trading your love of food for bland and boring. When I eat clean, I enjoy my food more because I know it's producing fuel for energy, exercise, disease prevention and good health. Clean eating is about homemade meals with fresh ingredients, lots of veggies and good for you fats like avocado, olive oil, dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) and nuts. I've got tons of free clean eating recipes of my own and from friends on my website... you've got to see how delicious eating for your health can be.

4) Happy people have discovered the exercise-happiness link. Lots of happy people are regular exercisers. This isn't a coincidence. Exercise boosts mood. Research published in the American Psychological Association indicates that exercise can help ward off depression and make people more mentally resilient. When you do something and it makes you happy, you kind of want to do it again, right? Once you find an exercise you love and get in the habit, it becomes difficult to stop doing it because you see how much of a giant mood booster exercise can be. I even have talked to lots of moms who say their hour of alone time exercising is what retains their sanity and keeps them happy. Exercise becomes me time and escape time, and you get all of its benefits. Exercise curbs the stress hormone cortisol. Exercise gives you happy endorphins, mental clarity, and a great sense of personal pride and accomplishment. Once you become exercise hooked, you will realize how closely your happiness is tied in to your workouts.

5) Happy people are willing to try new things. When you are happier, there's a better chance you are willing to try a new workout, experiment with a new recipe or set a new goal or challenge yourself. Your desire to try new things or be better than you were yesterday keeps you striving, and that mindset makes for a happier and healthier you.

My Rx for you is to BE HAPPY. Then you can get healthy. Fight for your happiness, because the prize is your good health.