If, like us, you get Dr. Mercola’s daily emails, you may have already seen his recent feature on the “22 Positive Habits of Happy People.” Or if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter (and if you don’t, why not head over and connect with us now?), you may have seen it there. It resonated so deeply with all of us here at the office, Dr. Glaros insisted we share it.
But what does happiness have to do with dentistry? Plenty – and not just because smiles are involved.
It starts with the fact – one that sounds a little silly and obvious when you say it but is so often overlooked – your mouth is connected with the rest of your body. Physically, of course, it’s connected via the bloodstream, nervous system, extracellular matrix (biological terrain) and the like. It’s energetically connected, too, with each tooth sitting one of the 14 meridians that run through the length of your body.
Consequently, what you do to any one part of the body can have effects throughout. We see this in the links that scientific research continues to confirm between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. We see this in the role toxic dental materials and focal infection can play in a wide range of neurological, immune and other chronic disorders.
A healthy mouth supports a healthy body – and vice versa. Naturally, then, all the things you do to keep your body fit and strong – eat healthfully, exercise, get enough rest and relaxation, minimize toxin exposure – are things that will help keep your gums, teeth and mouth healthy.
They’re also habits that contribute to happiness and an overall sense of well-being. And as Dr. Mercola notes,
Once you adopt a happiness mindset, and even before you do, embracing healthy habits will help keep your mood elevated naturally even in the midst of stress. Happy people tend to be healthy people, and vice versa.
More, research has demonstrated strong correlations between having a positive mindset and a number of chronic conditions, as well as overall immune function. For instance, a 2006 paper in Autoimmunity Reviews showed that positive stimuli – pleasant smells, emotional pictures – cause cortisol levels to drop (cortisol is a hormone we make more of when we’re stressed) and immunoglobulin A levels to rise (IgA is an antibody crucial to mucosal immunity). There was likewise evidence that those with “a more negative affective style poorly recruit their immune response and may be at risk for illness more so than those with a positive affective style.”
Other research has similarly documented how unpleasant, negative emotions can be a drag on health. Studies of the “nocebo effect” – the opposite of the more familiar placebo effect – likewise suggest the power of negative thinking. Gloominess about the probable outcome of any treatment can, the research suggests, become a self-fulfilling prophecy, while optimism (hope) lead to better outcomes.
It’s important to recognize that the kind of happiness we’re talking about isn’t the simple emotion of joy. Emotional happiness is generally a response to something happening outside you. We’re talking about something more than this – more of a way of being, something that develops within. This kind of happiness is something that can be cultivated and sustained.
That in itself is worth smiling about.