Today marks International Day of Happiness and, while we realise that life can often be difficult, it is worthwhile pausing to reflect on what we are grateful for, as well as to find new ways to increase our quota of happiness.
Here at WCO we are firm believers that exercise and lifestyle can go a long way to helping you live a better, healthier and happier life – reaping rewards for yourself and for those around you. Tai chi, in particular, is highly regarded as ‘medication in motion’ for the body and mind.
Here are 4 ways that tai chi increases happy vibes:
1. Tai chi boosts your immune system
Nothing does more to put a dampener on happiness than feeling ill – and tai chi can help ward off all sorts of lurgies by strengthening your immune system.
UCLA researchers carried out a study involving 112 healthy people with the average age of 70. Half of the volunteers attended three, 40-minute tai chi sessions a week. After four months, both groups were given the chickenpox vaccine. The researchers tested the study subjects’ blood to assess how active T cells (white blood cells, vital to the immune system) were in response to the chickenpox virus. The tests were done at intervals during the study, over 25 weeks.
The T cell activity levels of the tai chi group had risen 38% by the end of the study, compared with a 28% increase for people in the control group.
One reason for tai chi’s strong effect on the immune system, which the researchers thought may explain the results, is that it combines exercise, relaxation, and meditation. They theorised that tai chi enhances T cell activity by quieting the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response, which can, in some circumstances, interfere with the immune system.
2. Tai chi takes your mind to its happy place
Stress and anxiety have a potent effect on health and happiness. Sufferers can become isolated and depressed and may find it hard to sleep. Over time, this can also trigger physical health problems, including IBS, high blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions.
Tai chi is a meditative, mindful exercise, which is ideal for quietening the mind, alleviating stress and anxiety. The slow movements, along with focused breathing, reduce the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body, stopping the domino effect that occurs when symptoms of the nervous system trigger physical disorders.
3. The tai chi community helps you combat loneliness
Despite the proliferation of social networks, we are living in an age of loneliness, where authentic social connection is a rare and precious thing. Loneliness gets us down and impacts our health and life expectancy – so much so that one statistic likens its harmful effect to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
One of the places in which we can find community and a sense of belonging is in shared interests – for example, by joining a club to pursue a passion and mix with like-minded people.
Through running White Crane Academy and now White Crane Online, I have seen friendships grow and develop between people that share an interest in martial arts, whether that’s kung fu or tai chi. These lasting friendships are of great value – they help maintain students’ enthusiasm about their martial arts practice, so that they keep coming back to class.
While it is ideal to have the opportunity to meet people in the flesh, online communities can play a role in helping you to feel supported. With White Crane Online, you can practice and learn tai chi and interact with fellow students from around the world. You will feel the warmth of the community, as you encourage each other and give vital feedback.
4. Learning tai chi gives you a buzz
There’s no doubt that adding a feather to your cap, or string to your bow, makes you happy. Each new move you master as you build your tai chi practise will feel like an enormous achievement, which gives you a huge buzz.
One way to keep getting that high is to set yourself incremental goals. As you reach them, you will experience a hit of of dopamine (the feel good hormone), making you feel happier and grateful of the exciting, never-ending journey you are on.
If you haven’t already set off on your tai chi journey, what’s holding you back? Sign up to White Crane Online today, and experience its power to keep you strong, healthy and happy in the months and years to come.