Kim Painter, in the USA Today, September 10, 2013 has reported that Americans are not the happiest people on Earth but rank 17 out of 156 countries. This second annual World Happiness Report finds the highest levels of happiness in northern Europe. Here are the leading countries:

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Finland
8. Austria
9. Iceland
10. Australia
11. Israel
12. Costa Rica
17. United States
22. United Kingdom
25. France
43. Japan

The lowest rates of happiness were in Africa: Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo. The report is based on how people rate their overall satisfaction with life including economic conditions, freedom, and social support.

This report triggered some of my neurons. A few years ago, I could remember the words of this catchy tune, “Don’t worry. Be Happy.” I must admit the tune made me smile. Could happiness be a method used in the treatment, as well as the prevention of disease? Could moving my patients and friends toward happiness be a prescription for cardiovascular disease and other ailments? Could the way I treat people, if it led them to a happy state, be helpful?

The text in Proverbs 17:22 gave me great insight to those questions, “A merry heart does good like medicine.” This text suggests happiness is a treatment. There is vast scientific literature documenting that negative and stressful emotions trigger many bad chemical reactions. It only makes sense that happiness would change our chemistry for the good. After all we were designed to be happy. We know that when people are happy chemicals including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, pheromones and pregnenolone are released. Kubzanzky at Harvard suggests that positive or pleasant emotions reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Happiness is like medicine. Chemistry is changed.

Achieving happiness is our goal. Let me make 7 suggestions:

  1. Find ways to serve others, even if it is a small service like smiling or opening a door.
  2. Be Thankful! A thankful heart is a happy heart.
  3. Go outside in nature, take a deep breath and feel the air and sunshine. This works for me. Camping makes me happy as does walking in the park.
  4. Enjoy animals. This may mean a pet, a picture, or a trip to the zoo.
  5. Make the time to do something you really enjoy. This may be a hobby, holding a baby, going out to eat, or spending time with loved ones
  6. Listen to some uplifting music.
  7. Read the Bible and allow the Creator of happiness to show you the way. Worship.

Imagine that these happiness suggestions will change your chemistry and act like a prescription for your body. You don’t even need to move to Denmark. You can try these treatments anywhere as a merry heart does good like medicine. Happiness matters!