I'm going to stray just a bit from the straight up health tips today and talk about a book I just finished: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. Mr. Weiner begins by accessing the World Database of Happiness (yes, such a thing does exist---in Denmark). He learns which countries are the happiest in the world and sets out to discover exactly what makes us happy. One of the facts Mr. Weiner uncovers is the Swiss eat a higher than average amount of Chocolate, and Switzerland is one of the happiest countries in the world. It turns out that according to the CHUMP study (Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness) you don't even have to eat 72% cacao nibs to get the happy buzz from chocolate. People reported increased happiness from both dark and milk chocolate. The study was considered a failure because it set out to prove that only dark chocolate would have mood-enhancing effects. The only people who didn't get happy in the study were the ones who didn't get any chocolate!
All this being said, dark chocolate does have additional health benefits beyond happiness---so it's still your best bet when the choice is yours.
Happiness is responsible for maintaining our sense of well-being. I feel that a good sense of well-being, no matter how sick someone is, can be one of the most important factors in determining their healing process.
This study shows the very likely correlation between increased happiness and lowered blood pressure. In fact, if you visit PubMed, an online medical journal database, and type in "happiness" you'll find that there have been 2820 studies recently on the subject. Lower blood pressure, lower overall inflammation, better detoxification and digestion are some of the examples of the direct benefits of finding happiness.
The Geography of Bliss suggests that it may not be found where we're looking (well, maybe some of us were looking at chocolate). The book shows the happiest places and some of the least happy places and cross- references the experiences to divulge the patterns of what makes people happy. You don't have to travel to these places to understand the lesson, but if you do, I'd recommend Thailand...and take some chocolate.