A Merry Heart is Good Medicine

By: Sterling House and Clare Bridge of Valparaiso Last Updated: August 7, 2012

Stethoscope-HeartThe old proverb "a merry heart is good medicine" resonates with all of us. When we feel happy in our hearts, physical health seems to improve also, if only for the moment. So it appears that the maintenance of emotional health somehow ties in to the physical body. But can we prove this? Well prove is a strong word, but there does seem to be some good physical evidence for this claim.

Numerous studies show the impact of humor on health through measurable improvements in the immune response, blood pressure and other health indicators when one laughs. Social interaction of a positive nature, being with family and friends can bring joy to the heart. It turns out social support is one of the most important aspects to maintaining good health.

So how does one get and keep a merry heart? Well the answer to that is as varied as the number of people who read this. It is different for everyone. For some it is visiting with grand children, for others it is communing with God or nature. Practices like gratitude and helping others work for many.

The important thing is to know oneself well enough and to call to mind the joyful things in life when need be. Don’t be a prisoner to the expectations of others or even of yourself. Ban the word should from your vocabulary and do the things that make you feel happy. Make it a habit to do one thing every day that brings you joy-even if it is a small thing and be ever curious and open to what life may bring!

Consider the story below :

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.  

His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.  

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. I love it,' he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.  

'Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.'  

'That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied.  

Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.  

Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. 'It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. 

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away.. Just for this time in my life.  

Tips for a Merry Heart:

  • Do something for someone else
  • Call a friend or family member you have not heard from for a while
  • Take a long walk
  • Sit and watch the snow come down while drinking hot chocolate with a companion
  • Recall happy memories from past years, write some down and share them with someone
  • Sing
  • Dance
  • Play
  • Laugh!
  • Spend time with a child
  • Forgive past offenses
  • Smile-even if you don’t feel like it-your heart will follow