Morton on lifestyle as medicine

Dr Darren Morton, author of Live More Happy.

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Dr Darren Morton is a lifestyle medicine pioneer. He is not only an established communicator but also a recognised researcher in this emerging field, appointed a founding fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. With a PhD in human physiology, Morton helped develop and present a lifestyle medicine intervention called the Complete Health Improvement Program. He is Lead Researcher in the Lifestyle Research Centre and Course Convenor of Postgraduate Courses in Lifestyle Medicine at Avondale College of Higher Education. Morton responded to questions from Signs Publishing Book editor Nathan Brown about his work and his new book, Live More Happy.

Ten years after Seven Secrets for Feeling Fantastic, Live More Happy draws on many of the same concepts. What’s different in this new book?

Over the past decade, the science backing up what I wrote in Seven Secrets for Feeling Fantastic has just exploded. Live More Happy incorporates this new information. While the book maintains Seven Secrets’ easy-to-read and accessible style, it includes more than 200 references.

How do you define happiness?

Although experiencing joy and other positive emotions is an important component, happiness is more than just smiles and laughter. It’s an overall satisfaction with life, and that comes from enjoying what you do and feeling a sense of achievement from it, being surrounded by positive relationships and having a sense of meaning.

Is health and happiness a choice?

We know there’s a genetic component to health and happiness, but the latest science suggests genetics might count for less than we think. Happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirski says improving our happiness requires a “will and a proper way”. I’m convicted if people want to be happier and are prepared to make the effort—meaning, they have the “will”—then it’s possible. In Live More Happy, I give you the “proper way” for going about achieving it.

What’s most important for someone wanting to make changes for better wellbeing?

Belief. It’s absolutely necessary to believe it’s important and worthwhile, and that you can do it. Belief drives behaviour. It also helps to surround yourself with a supportive social network.

How important is the Seventh-day Adventist “health message” today?

It’s more important and relevant today than when Adventist Church pioneer Ellen White shared it more than a century ago. I find this incredibly faith affirming.

What’s your vision for Adventist health?

I can summarise it in one sentence: a greater recognition of the value of our health message for helping people live more. For many Adventists, the health message equates to a lot of “don’ts”. It’s actually a comprehensive perspective on how to live your healthiest and happiest life. In Live More Happy, there’s nothing that will make people feel guilty. I hope readers enjoy the scientific validity of what I write and try some of the simple strategies I present for living their best life.

How can Adventist churches better use health to connect with their communities?

The world is more interested in wellbeing than ever before and we have something unique to contribute. It starts with the church again getting interested in and excited about sharing the message it’s been given. My hope is Live More Happy can help pique that interest and generate that excitement. Once we as church members can testify to the difference the health message makes in our lives, we’ll be well placed to share it and make a difference in our communities. This would so neatly align with the gospel mandate to lead people to more abundant living.

Live More Happy is available from Seventh-day Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand.

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