March 24, 2018

Lifestyle Medicine Expert Calls for Embrace of "Wholistic Happiness"

Brenton Stacey, Adventist Record & Adventist Review

Doing physical exercise. Being out in nature. Enjoying community fellowship. Being thankful. Uplifting others.

These are some of the simple but science-backed tips that can help us feel happier, according to lifestyle medicine expert Darren Morton, from Australia. Morton, currently serving at the Avondale College of Higher Education, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Cooranbong, New South Wales, was interviewed by several national TV and radio outlets on the “International Day of Happiness,” on March 20, 2018. As the author of the recently published book Live More Happy, he made the most of the opportunity to call audiences to embrace what he calls “wholistic happiness,” which includes focusing on a person’s emotional well-being.

“It was an exhausting day but a great opportunity to share proven principles that can lift people’s lives,” said Morton. “I had some good interactions with presenters on-air and off-air across the day.” Across the day, he completed five interviews by national TV and major radio outlets in Australia’s four largest cities.

The Science of Happiness

At the launch of Live More Happy last month, Morton, who is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine, spoke of his goal to lift the lives of 10 million people around the world.

Live More Happy “represents what I want to do with my life,” he said, “to share information that can help you live a fuller, better, more abundant life.” This passion has helped shape his personal mission, which he shared publicly for the first time during the launch. “I believe everyone—I don’t care how young you are, I don’t care how old you are—everyone needs to know what is contained in this book,” he said.

Morton pitched the content in the book in a positive way. “I never tell people what they’re doing wrong,” he explained. “I simply say, ‘This is what the science says you can do to feel better.’ Why wouldn’t you want to know that?” His challenge: “Test it, see if it works.”

His interest in emotional wellbeing began about 15 years ago, five years before the publication of Live More Happy’s predecessor, Seven Secrets for Feeling Fantastic. “I always felt impressed, a deep prodding, to go back and do that book better,” said Morton. “To build in the science.”

Over the past decade, neuroscience, positive psychology and lifestyle medicine have exploded as areas of research and healthcare. Live More Happy incorporates this new information. While the book maintains an easy-to-read and accessible style, it includes more than 200 references.

Five Principles to a Happier Life

For Morton, International Happiness Day began with an appearance on Channel 10’s Studio 10 panel discussion, where as a teaser, he shared five science-backed principles for a happier life. He said that (1) Motion creates emotion—physical exercise improves your mood; (2) Blue and green should often be seen—fresh air, sunlight, and open spaces make you feel better; and that (3) Together feels better—community is important for general well-being. He also explained that (4) Feelings follow your focus—expressing gratitude, for instance, can make you happier; and that (5) Giving is living—doing something to uplift another person has the power to uplift you too.

He was then interviewed on major market radio stations in Perth (6PR), Melbourne (3AW) and Brisbane (ABC Radio), and visited the Sydney studios of kids’ radio station Kinderling, where he discussed happiness within the dynamics of families.

Praise for the Book

Morton’s book has received very positive reviews from other experts in the field. Calling him “one of the world’s leading educationists in lifestyle medicine,” Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine president Hamish Meldrum wrote that Morton’s “recent research demonstrates…health choices are…keys to better emotional well-being. It seems increased happiness is the most significant side effect of our best health choices.” Meldrum commended that the book “draws on the growing evidence for the many benefits of lifestyle medicine and offers a practical guide to living at our best—and our happiest.”

American College of Lifestyle Medicine former president Liana Lianov, on the other hand, praised Morton’s “unique ability” to share scientific information in a way that appeals the general reader. “In Live More Happy, he delightfully brings together scientifically proven strategies from the exciting fields of positive psychology and lifestyle medicine that really can lift your mood and your life,” she wrote, before concluding, “Everyone needs to read this book and put into practice what it teaches!”