Refill Your Water Glass, It Could Make You Happier
It’s not quite as simple as chugging eight glasses a day to feel more hopeful, though.
Drink more water: It’s something all the health experts (and probably your mother) tell you to do. We understand that pure H20 is the healthiest alternative to other types of drinks, like soda or coffee. But could it boost your mood, too?
Among respondents who said they drink six or more glasses of water a day, 41% strongly agree that they are “very happy,” while just 12% of those who drink less than one glass of water a day say the same.
Those who drink the most water also identified more readily with being hopeful, with 40% of those who drink six-plus glasses of water daily strongly agreeing that they are optimistic. Among those who say they drink less than a glass a day, just 10% strongly agree that they are optimistic.
Related: 12 Ways to Find Joy Every Single Day
Does this mean we should all be gulping down water by the jugful in hopes of being happier and more hopeful in 2021? Not necessarily, experts say.
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Water 'Just One of Many Factors'
“In terms of research design, the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from this sort of study is that hydration and happiness are associated,” says Barbara L. Frederickson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The survey suggests a correlation, she says, but it's highly likely that another factor, such as conscientiousness, has a greater effect on both hydration and happiness.
The second thing to consider is the source of the study, says Evan Parks, a clinical psychologist at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Michigan. “This study was conducted by a company that has a vested interest in showing a relationship between good hydration with home-produced ice and the product they are selling (refrigerators),” says Parks.
Parks also emphasizes the difference between correlation (two things occurring together) and cause and effect (one thing making another happen) in research. “The way they share their results implies that hydration and happiness are linked together as if one causes the other,” he says.
The part that’s missing here, though, is that people who are more health conscious in their behaviors in general—exercising more, eating better, hydrating well, and overall focusing on wellness—are going to have a higher sense of life satisfaction and happiness, anyway. “Water is just one of many factors,” Parks says.
Overall Benefits of Good Hydration
That’s not to say hydration isn’t an important factor in your mood. “Water supports so many functions in our body, and if our body is functioning well, then we are feeling good energy-wise and can spend more time doing the things that make us happy,” says Alex Greenbaum, an integrative nutrition health coach. (Just keep in mind that water isn’t the only cure.)
Here are some other ways staying well hydrated benefits your body.
Increased overall energy and alertness
Good hydration leads to improved focus and short-term memory, in addition to giving you an energy burst and maximizing physical performance, says Dr. Pamela Peeke, chairman of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board.
Higher pain tolerance
When we are dehydrated, we’re less able to tolerate pain, Parks says. And not just any liquid will do: For every cup of coffee you drink, for example, you need to drink two cups of water to replace the lost fluid that occurs because of the caffeine intake, he says.
Increased cardiovascular efficiency
When you drink enough water before and during exercise, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body, and oxygen and nutrients can be transported more efficiently to the muscles, Parks says.
Good hydration allows your metabolism to function at its highest level, in turn helping you to burn more calories and lose weight, says Parks.
What About Ice?
In the study, a little more than half (56%) of those surveyed said they preferred to drink water cold, and about the same number said that if no ice is available, they’ll drink less water. “Cold, icy water is most refreshing and will reset a person’s temperature if they’re hot, especially [after] sweating and physical activity,” Peeke says. That makes sense that you want a cool bottle after an intense workout. But, there are plenty of people who prefer water room temperature or without ice, too—particularly if you have sensitive teeth. So ultimately, drinking water at your ideal temperature so you’ll consume more of it is really the only thing that matters.
How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?
According to recommendations from The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, women should be drinking at least 11.5 cups (92 ounces) of water per day, while men should aim for 15.5 cups (124 ounces). That really can vary from person to person depending on your physical activity, overall health and other factors, including your altitude. And hydration doesn’t come only from drinking water; about 20% of your intake includes water from foods, says Peeke.
Not sure how much you’re actually drinking? Try tracking your water consumption through an app (check out Hydro Coach, WaterMinder, or Aqualert) or just keep tabs the old-fashioned way by tallying your daily glasses in a notebook. It’s a good idea to track for a week to a month to really start building awareness about your daily consumption.
“We all know that drinking water is important, but a lot of us don’t do it,” says Greenbaum.
To encourage us to drink more water, our experts suggest filling a large container with cold water and keeping it in a convenient spot. We also love Peeke’s suggestion of adding sliced fruits (like oranges, lemons, or strawberries) for fruit-infused water.