Happy, Healthy New Year

The Pursuit of Happiness

“The pursuit of happiness…” Our forefathers thought it important enough to include it the Declaration of Independence, and yet I’m struck by how we, here in New England at least, seem to talk more about improving our health—and our healthcare—than we talk about our happiness (maybe happiness is more a West Coast thing?). Despite continuous advances in medicine, people are expressing more anxiety about their health to me than at any previous time in my career. As this New Year begins, my wish is that we can all achieve both.

Competence and Confidence

Like healthcare, the pursuit of happiness is big business in the United States. For me, it’s important to realize that they are not the same, although they can overlap. I’m talking about the condition of happiness, not that temporary emotion whose opposite is “sadness.” The condition of happiness can include appropriate periods of feeling sad, at the loss of a friend or a pet, for example, but the condition of happiness persists. There are two elements I’ve observed that seem to be fundamental to people enjoying the condition of happiness: competence and confidence. Whether it’s in a skill or within a relationship, feeling competent and confident seems vital to success. What if you felt this way about your health?

Health and Relationships

The subtitle of Ruth Whippman’s recent book, “America the Anxious,” explains “How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.” If that is so, we are a less healthy nation, since there is clear biological evidence that chronic stress negatively affects our basic physiology. Whippman found evidence that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness show positive physiological effects, but her research revealed that the strongest indicator of happiness was connected to relationships.

Helping People

In our practice, people come to us primarily because they have a painful condition. I believe our greatest success is demonstrated when we can help them achieve confidence and competence in taking care of that aspect of their health. Strong relationships are fundamental to delivering on this success.

And so…to those professionals with whom we have had the pleasure to work, and to those individuals whom we’ve had the privilege to treat, I wish you a healthy and happy New Year.


William Cioffredi, PT

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