We all want to be happy but sometimes it can be hard to The Action for Happiness group have put together a list of key steps to incorporate some more happiness into your short and long-term futures. But first, what are the benefits of being happy?
It may seem like an obvious question but actually some of the effects of happiness are surprising:
1) Happiness Reduces Stress – Of course, you may say that it’s just that those people who have less stressful lives are happier. Chronic stress does affect our outlook but it works the other way around as well. Researchers in 2009 measured how happy 65 university students were. They then stressed them all out by giving them a horrible task that was going to be assessed by their lecturers.
While all students had high blood pressure and pumping hearts as a result of stress, those who had a more positive outlook recovered much more quickly than those who were not . So even if stress is inevitable in some situations paying attention to happiness in other areas of your life may help you to ride out the storm.
2) Happiness Affects Our Health – Happier people have lower heart rates, lower blood pressure and a healthier immune system . To show how much our psychological health can affect our physical health let’s talk about a study done by researchers in Carnegie Mellon University in 2003 . These researchers inserted nasal drops infected with the common cold virus into the noses of 350 volunteers (with their permission!).
Beforehand they had asked them to rate how often they experienced positive emotions such as happiness and relaxation. When they returned to these volunteers they found that those who had reported more positive emotions at the start were much less likely to have developed the common cold than those who were less happy. The immune systems of these happy participants had risen up to meet the challenge meaning the virus had a much harder time taking hold.
3) Happy People Live Longer – One team of researchers followed up a group of 180 nuns from their 20s to their deaths in their late 70s, 80s and 90s. They found that those who had been happier in their twenties, as assessed by essays they themselves had written, lived on average 7-10 years longer than their less happy peers . This has since been verified by another larger study of nearly 4000 older adults .
So celebrating the International Day of Happiness is not important just for the feel-good factor. Of course we all have periods of happiness and unhappiness in our lives that we do not necessarily have control over but taking steps to improve your own happiness when you do have some control may help you to build up resilience to see you through less happy times. Take a look at the Action for Happiness 10 key steps here:
1. Papousek, I., et al., Trait and state positive affect and cardiovascular recovery from experimental academic stress. Biological Psychology, 2010. 83(2): p. 108-115.
2. Steptoe, A. and J. Wardle, Positive affect and biological function in everyday life. Neurobiology of Aging, 2005. 26(1): p. 108-112.
3. Cohen, S., et al., Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic medicine, 2003. 65(4): p. 652-657.