Happy people can be infectious, uplifting and sometimes even annoying, but is it possible that they may even be physically healthier than unhappy people? Research suggests, that they just might be!
According to a Harvard School of Public Health report there is vast scientific evidence that “negative emotions harm the body. Serious, sustained stress or fear can alter biological systems in a way that, over time, adds up to ‘wear and tear’ and, eventually, illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.” And, in 2009, researchers at the University of Alabama reported that depressed people tend to gain weight faster than people who aren't depressed.
But what about happiness? Are happy people any healthier? A 2012 review of over 200 studies revealed a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and, according to a 2011 study, older people live 35% longer when they are happy.
Do you want to be happier, healthier, and live longer? If you’re happiness quotient needs a boost, learn from these habits of chronically happy people:
It is not uncommon for people to measure their worth by comparing themselves to those around them. Conversely, we sometimes take comfort from comparing our situations to those less fortunate than us. Neither approach will make you happy. Focus on yourself, set small goals and measure your own success based on your progress alone, not that of others.
2. Let Go and Forgive
Holding a grudge means you’re holding onto bitterness, anger, hurt and other negative emotions. Forgiveness frees you from negativity and allows more space for positive emotions. Forgiveness is a journey and it’s not always easy. That’s OK. Just start at the point of willingness and move from there. For more on how to forgive, check out this article from Psychology Today.
3. Spend Money on Events, Not Things
An experience or adventure creates lasting memories and will bring you happiness again and again when recalling the event. So stop wasting your budget on the instant gratification of this ring and that watch and plan a great trip or event. Even planning the event, whether it’s a hike, concert, cruise, etc. will give you something to look forward to.
One of the biggest secrets of happy people is that they surround themselves with equally happy people.
Supreme happiness comes from our interaction with other people, according to Daniel Gilbert, Harvard College Psychology Professor. “The affiliation, esteem, respect and goodwill of other human beings” is the main predictor of true happiness. Gilbert asserts that “we are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” So don’t forget to call your mom!
It is hard to feel bad when you are laughing. Laughter is not only uplifting but there are many physiological benefits too. According to Helpguide.org, “humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy and diminish pain.” Watch a funny show, get a joke book or, better yet, take yourself out to a comedy club. Your body and mind will thank you.
Exercise boosts levels of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which have been proven to cushion some of the effects of stress and depression. Exercise will improve your health and help you to maintain a healthy weight but it also has the immediate effect of enhancing your general sense of happiness. Even just 7 minutes of exercise per day is enough to boost your mood, so no excuses.
"Every day is a gift - that's why it's called the present." And who doesn’t like presents? Allow yourself to be immersed in whatever you’re doing right now and take time to really be in the present moment. Avoid replaying past negative events in your head and think about what you could be doing right now to ensure you future. If things aren’t currently going well, try to resolve those issues to the best of your ability while focusing in on and giving energy to a bright and optimistic future. According to Harvard College Psychology Professor, Dan Gilbert, being happy in the now and focusing on ways to improve the future is a major key to long term happiness.
Spring is on the horizon, which means longer days, warmer weather, singing birds and blooming trees. It’s the perfect time of year to let go of your doldrums and embrace the joy of living!
What are some practices that make you feel happy?
Author: Brandi Redo
Brandi is a Certified Health Coach at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. Balance is the number one mission in Brandi’s life. In her spare time she loves to bike, do Zumba and play tennis, but hates gym exercise. She is an amateur gardener and nature walker, who is on the constant look out for interesting insects and small animals. Brandi encourages people to “find the sweetness in life.”