Self-love is a big part of good health and aids in facilitating happiness. Optimistic people live longer, have better health outcomes, and are more resilient after an unpleasant diagnosis.
Lack of self-love is physically demonstrated unhappiness, which materializes as:
- Inconsistent exercise.
- Irregular sleeping patterns.
- Overindulgence in pleasures of the flesh, such as alcohol, food, illicit drugs, or sex.
- Ignoring changes in the body—prolonged joint pain, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
- Not taking medications as prescribed or neglecting to refill.
- Denying presence of disease once diagnosed—for example, diabetes or high blood pressure.
Unhappiness is a disease because it alters mind, body, and/or spirit. Uneasiness or dis-ease can manifest in all parts of the body and mind with harmful consequences from the disruption of normal habits. Though changes are seemingly small, this furthers the disease, causing harm to self and possibly others. For example, uncontrolled diabetes leads to hemodialysis, blindness, or limb amputation. I have also seen a number of patients with an early diagnosis of cancer who only seek treatment later when experiencing life-threatening symptoms, after the cancer has spread.
Health, as a manifestation of happiness, can be achieved with a little practice.
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Consider the following:
- Know your medical history. See your doctor for annual exams.
- Notice and act upon symptoms; persistent pain or change in bodily fluid is your body’s warning that something is wrong.
- Communicate honestly with your healthcare provider. Physicians can only treat correctly if all information is shared candidly.
- Take medications as prescribed, which includes completing the prescription, as well as not taking other people’s medications.
- Get plenty of rest, which includes 7-9 hours of sleep and, if possible, a quick 15-minute nap or quiet meditation break each day.
- Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Exercise releases endorphins, elevating overall mood.
- Keep a healthy weight. Eat at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Carry an apple or banana for a quick, delicious snack. Fill your plate with greens, then add a small amount of protein, beans, and other vegetables to keep your waistline in check.
- Stop smoking to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and emphysema.
- Use alcohol in moderation to avoid liver disease, DUI, or death.
- Practice safer sex. Know your HIV status and use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
- Maintain healthy relationships. Talk at regular intervals, practice forgiveness, and avoid holding grudges. Anger releases stress hormones that escalate blood pressure and increase risk for heart disease.
- Encourage friends and family to know their health history. Make health an easy part of conversation.
Altruism and gratitude have been shown to improve quality of life. Practice self-love by doing small things every day to improve your health. Choose optimism and happiness, and share it with your community. Be well.
Sylvia E. Morris, MD, MPH, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and holistic medicine. In addition to her clinical practice, she is a community health advocate as well as a medical consultant and commentator for media outlets such as The Weather Channel, Atlanta Fox 5 News, and CNN.com. Tell her what you think on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.