Live-It Up! Happiness = Healthy Longevity
By Chia Cheri
Happy people live longer-by at least 35 percent, according to one study. Other studies show optimists live longer than pessimists. Positive thoughts and attitudes do things in your body that strengthen your immune system, boost positive emotions, decrease pain, and provide stress relief.
Researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammation (a cause of most dis-ease) and stronger antiviral and antibody responses. This falls into the realm of epigenetics.
Part of your longevity may depend on your DNA but an even larger part depends on epigenetics-over which you have more control. Your thoughts, feeling, emotions, diet (live-it), and other lifestyle factors exert epigenetic influences every minute of the day, playing a central role in (anti-)aging and disease. It’s not about how much stress you experience but how you respond to it that matters. (Dr. Joseph Mercola)
Laughter also has been shown in research to have health-boosting effects. Researchers from the Univ. of MD School of Medicine in Baltimore found that laughter had the same positive effect on blood vessels as exercise.
What is Happiness?
Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as having three parts. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness. Engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose (helping others but not to point of being stressed-out as a martyr).
Three Sources of Happiness
Researchers have explored three basic sources of happiness: genetics, including temperament and personality; life circumstances, such as wealth and health; and our own choices.
We tend to think if only we had more money, or a better job, or fell in love, that we would be happier. Sometimes we underestimate how much control we have over our own happiness. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, analyzed studies and reports that up to 50% of our happiness may be set by our genes, 10% by life circumstances beyond our control, and at least 40% by our own actions.
Do Things That Make You Happy
Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, author of The Dragonfly Effect, explained; there is often a gap between where people say they want to spend their time and how they actually spend it… a large percentage know what energizes them, but do not spend much time there…once you identify the activities and people with whom you want to spend more time, calendar in your time thoughtfully. When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to actually do that activity.
Do Things You Are Good At
‘Signature strengths’ are the things you are uniquely talented at – and using them brings you joy. People who deliberately exercise their signature strengths on a daily basis are significantly happier for months. (Gladwell, The New Yorker, “How to succeed as an entrepreneur”)
What the Elders Say
The majority of centenarians do not feel their chronological age; on average, they report feeling 20 years younger. They also tend to have positive attitudes, optimism, and a zest for life. What are their secrets to aging well? These individuals represent centuries of wisdom that should not be overlooked. The following themes appear when asked to explain why they’ve lived so long: keeping a positive attitude; eating good food; exercising moderately; clean living; living independently; family; friends; good genes. Some jokingly said they attribute their longevity to “avoiding dying.” Others give hints to their life philosophy, such as “Find your passion and live it,” “Make time to cry,” and “Practice forgiveness.” Centenarians overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to respond to positively, reframing with gratitude. Their lives are marked by as many stressful events as the rest of us, but they differ in how well they manage it. Rather than dwelling on it, they let it go. And they are very happy people!