Happiness- Drunken delusion or the key to longevity?

What Aging Can Teach Us About Happiness

Happiness is a state of mind – an exiled Tibetan monk during an interview was asked how he managed to be so happy and cheerful in exile from his country. He replied very simply – “because it makes me feel better”.

When I first read about this response, the meaning seeped into my core and when I got “It” I felt JOY. Why? well it makes perfect sense. I feel better because I feel better.

Simply put –  happiness recurs. It feeds on itself creating more feelings of abundance and joy. Which, funnily enough is the same thing that happens in Depression– negative feelings feed on itself in a downward spiral of despair.

Some of us might retort with defining happiness as some sort of delusion with reality being the antidote. But more often than not, “reality” is defined in overwhelmingly negative tones. Which is better then? happiness or reality?

Fact is – happiness causes people to live longer, healthier lives, sometimes up to 14% longer than person who report being unhappy. But then again if you were unhappy, chances are you wouldn’t feel like living longer.

Recently psychologists Diener and Chan showed that many kinds of studies, using different methods, conclude that happiness has a positive causal effect on longevity and physiological health. In a survey of people living in industrial countries, happier people enjoy an increased longevity of between 7.5 and 10 years.

Happier people are also less likely to commit suicide, and they are less often the victims of accidents.

How can researchers measure the influence of happiness on physical health and longevity?-  One important method is the longitudinal study, where investigators follow people over many years, to show whether the happier ones live longer.

Studying nuns offer a unique perspective for many long-term psychological studies, primarily because the conditions of their environment are homogeneous, or similar. Before young women entered a monastery, researchers asked them about their subjective happiness level.

Interestingly, those who perceived themselves to be happier died at a median age of 93.5 years.

How to be Happy:

One way is to be grateful sounds simple but there is some pretty solid science behind an attitude of gratitude. A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics.
Additionally, they earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

This attitude affects our happiness and health from a very early age. Researchers found that kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don’t.

These studies also showed that when children are happy they feel the need to reciprocate once aware of benefiting. They want to share their happiness with other people.

The research is part of the “positive psychology” movement, which focuses on developing strengths rather than alleviating disorders.

Cultivating gratitude is also used extensively in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which treats by changing people’s’ thought patterns to dramatically affect their mood. CBT is the gold standard in treating Depression and other mood disorders.

In My Humble Opinion I find when I feel at my best, amazing things happen. Now, I may be more aware of the amazing but it doesn’t negate the attraction of positive experiences to positive people.

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4 thoughts on “Happiness- Drunken delusion or the key to longevity?

  1. Loved the Ted video!!! And your post – agree with every word, especially the bit on gratitude. Hapiness can definitely be learnt. Schools should be teaching this. If only all children from kindergarten were made aware of this… anyways better late than never, I am working on slowly straightening out my mind… Thanks for a great post.

    • Thank you Susan! good to have you here , I am definitely grateful for that. Yes I agree, re-framing the mind to notice more positive thoughts is far more helpful to your body and soul. Have a great Day!

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