"The people we looked at are making conscious choices to regulate their own biochemistry without drugs," explains Foster. "They're changing all kinds of things in their bodies, and we thought we should write about it." The result is their book (with co-author Jen Seda): "Happiness & Health: 9 Choices That Unlock the Powerful Connection Between the Two Things We Want Most."
Q: What are five things you can do each day to be healthier?
A: You can choose the way you react to circumstances. Although we can't always control circumstances, we can always make choices about our response. We can respond with a positive attitude or by being helpful, or listening, or by giving to others. Second is giving. Helping others and acts of service seem to be associated with longevity. Third, tell the truth. I'm not suggesting a lack of civility, but be authentic. You're doing a favor to yourself and those around you. Fourth, try something new every day. Large or small, any novelty or change opens new neural pathways. Fifth, any time you feel like a victim, ask yourself, what action can I take?
Q: Why is viewing yourself as a victim harmful and how can we avoid it?
A: When you frame yourself that way, you're living in a "fight, flight or freeze" mode, biochemistries that are associated with poor immune response. The second you say "I feel like a victim and what can I do about it" you're invoking innovation, creativity and problem-solving. These are much healthier, focused and productive biochemical states.
Q: Many people feel stuck in a daily routine of working, child care and paying bills. How do you develop hope and happiness when you're feeling trapped?
A: It's important to see options, but here's the deal: It's not so much having the options, it's feeling that you're looking for options. We wondered why extremely happy people are so flexible and see so many options. We realized that the biochemistry of options is synonymous with the biochemistry of hopefulness. The biochemistry of feeling trapped is the same as the biochemistry of despair and depression.
Q: What role does flexibility play in happiness and health?
A: Flexibility means you're willing to try new things, that you have multiple ways to reach a goal. It's also leaving the field open for new experiences. You might want to try going on a trip and not plan it out completely. Life feels fresh and new and you feel well.