Happiness is defined in the Random House Dictionary as the state of being delighted, pleased or glad over a particular thing. Of course, the thing that makes you happy may be different from what makes someone else happy and can change over time. One of these things is being healthy, but have you considered how being happy makes you healthier?
Positive emotions will predict health and longevity as well as or better than negative and often better than many of the traditional health behaviors, such as eating vegetables.
Professor Ed Diener, University of Illinois
Mr. Diener co-authored the research review “Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity,” with University of Texas at Dallas professor, Micaela Chan. The review examined more than 160 studies and found a preponderance of evidence linking happiness with longevity (pessimists die younger), lower levels of stress hormones, increased immune function and faster recovery of the heart after exertion.
All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states. Happiness is no magic bullet, but the evidence is clear that it changes your odds of getting disease or dying young.
Professor Ed Diener
Yet, doesn’t the very personal nature of happiness make it impossible to link to health? A study by Laura Kubzansky, Harvard School of Public Health Associate professor, found emotional vitality (enthusiasm, hopefulness and engagement with life) appeared to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The study followed more than 6000 men and women, aged 25 to 74, for 20 years using an adaptation of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey measure for General Well-Being. The results from Kubzansky’s measure of well-being agreed with other research, which found certain personal attributes such as emotional vitality, optimism, a supportive network of friends and family and self-regulation correlate with better health.
Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside wrote about these attributes in her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. She suggests these strategies to find more happiness (and good health) in your life:
1. Count your blessings through contemplation, journaling or sharing them with others.
2. Cultivate optimism by writing a journal about the best possible future for yourself.
3. Practice random acts of kindness.
4. Develop nurturing relationships by investing time and energy in them.
5. Do what you love and love what you do (at least, once in a while).
6. Commit to meaningful goals with your time and effort.
7. Develop strategies for coping with stress in a positive manner.
8. Forgive. A simple letter you never share with anyone can help in letting go.
9. Find a spiritual practice which resonates with you.
10.Care for your body through exercise, a healthy diet, laughing and smiling.