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The link between happy and healthy

There are certain expectations when visiting the exhibit Body Worlds. You expect to learn more about how the body works. You expect to see displays of the human body, from its cardiovascular system to the skeleton to muscles.

The exhibit currently at the Buffalo Museum of Science focuses on the heart and so but also takes visitors through the rest of the body, particularly demonstrating the complexity of muscle and bone in movement.

You don't have to be training for the Olympics to get the message -- your health depends on exercise, not just from a weight-maintenance standpoint but also from a properly working body standpoint.

But among the unexpected was the educational panel on happiness.

The premise of the piece was that if you were happy, if you were an optimist, you had better health.

My friend with me questioned the cause-and-effect offering.

"Maybe they have it backwards?" he said. "Maybe being healthy is what makes you happy."

Ah, the classic "chicken and egg" syndrome.

Which comes first?

We love to have black and white answers to those types of questions. But in reality, perhaps they're not exactly cause and effect.

What if happy and health were a mosaic and a continuum?

What if being happy helped you have better health? And in return what if having better health (and hence feeling good) made you happier?

Yes, it's circular.

And not very helpful for our Point A to Point B mentality. How does one become happier? How does one become healthier?

The best answers are usually individualized and not straight forward. I don't think most of us are looking for "quick fixes." Instead, we're looking for simple ,direct fixes -- if I do X then I can achieve Y -- with measurable results.

But rarely does it happen in the kind of systematic way we're looking for.

Happiness and health seem intertwined but in rich and nuanced ways. For all the anatomy and science of the Body Worlds exhibit, there are connections between the mind and body that can't be shown physically.

It's what makes any athletic journey -- whether its a simple fitness routine, training for a 5K or training for an endurance race -- so rich and unique. Because the parts intertwine, overlap and the cause-and-effect aren't necessarily connected until weeks, months or years later.

Does being happy make you healthy? Or does being healthy make you happy?

Ah, like world may never know.

Then again, it may not need to. The two go hand-in-hand. And whichever way is your entry point, you're bound to find the other.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

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