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Choosing happy

What is the biggest factor affecting happiness?
PHOTO:  What is the biggest factor
affecting happiness? Read our tips below.

What is the biggest factor affecting happiness? It's mental health, according to the World Happiness Report commissioned for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Happiness. But even in advanced countries such as the United States, only about 25 percent of mentally ill people get treatment.

"Many people still don't accept that mental illnesses are as real as any physical ailment, and they can be treated," says psychiatrist Michael Martin, MD, of the Linden Oaks Medical Group in Plainfield. "Watch for red flags that mean it's time to get help: sleeping too much or too little, feeling down much of the time, or persistently doing things that undermine what you want from your life. This includes such behaviors as procrastination, substance abuse, eating disorders, cutting, high risk behaviors, or injecting a lot of drama into relationships."

Many who don't suffer from mental illness still feel their happiness could be ratcheted up a level or two. Dr. Martin says our attitudes and the choices we make are much more important to our happiness than anything in our genes or environment.

He offers the following tips:

  • Surround yourself with supportive people and work on building those relationships.
  • Don't isolate yourself, or let fear of being alone keep you in any relationships that are abusive.
  • Structure your life to include activities that are meaningful to you and challenge your abilities. Set realistic goals.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat balanced meals, get adequate sleep, exercise most days, and seek out opportunities to laugh.
  • Stay sober. Abusing drugs or alcohol can make unhappiness worse. It will knock out free will if it becomes addiction.
  • Work on building your self-esteem by doing good acts for yourself and others. Volunteerism and random acts of kindness can provide an especially good boost.
  • Practice gratitude. Make daily mental lists of two or three things you appreciate.
  • Approach each day with a positive attitude about yourself and give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Live in the present. Don't borrow trouble from yesterday or tomorrow.

Linden Oaks Medical Group

Linden Oaks at Edward recognizes the need to provide comprehensive behavioral health services to our community. That's why we established Linden Oaks Medical Group – a team of experienced psychiatrists who specialize in adolescent and adult behavioral health services. Visit http://www.edward.org/lomg to meet our doctors and find locations. Or call our Help Line at (630) 305-5500.


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Edward Hospital & Health Services
801 S. Washington, Naperville, IL 60540 • (630) 527-3000

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