A 23-year study of 660 people over the age of 50 conducted at Yale University concluded that it was actually possible to increase one’s lifespan by about 7.5 years by holding a positive perception of aging. And this advantage held true regardless of age, sex, economic status, loneliness, or even functional health!
The implication of this research and others like it is tremendous. Positive Psychology, a relatively new branch of psychology, studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. A recent study showed being happy also influences the happiness of your family and friends, and to a lesser degree their friends and family.
So, happiness can increase your lifespan and quality of life.
In their study they found that cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to diabetes and hypertension and controls many of the body’s functions was 32% lower in the subjects who were happy. They also found happy people had lower stress levels and heart rates.
And, they discovered that health-related biological factors were independently related to happiness. In other words, people aren’t just happy because they are healthy… They are healthy because they are happy.
A happy person seeks out more challenges and ways to have fun. They tend to see new developments as stimulating rather than threatening. The ability to see the lighter side of things leads to a lower stress life.
Laughing and having a good time increases the production of endorphins, the number of antibody-producing cells, and boosts the success of T-cells. A stronger immune system means you get ill less often. And because you are healthier, you enjoy life more. Another one of life’s pretty neat circles…
Have you ever seen a baby that’s just happy all the time? Turns out happiness is coded in our genes… Studies of identical twins who grew up in separate homes have proved this. Which means some people are just going to be happier naturally.
But don’t despair if you weren’t born happy. You can still make a conscious choice – and live longer.
We all know that emotions, negative and positive, affect our posture, heart rate, blood pressure, & adrenaline levels… In short, our health. In a similar way, our pursuit of happiness, our decision to cheerfully accept or make choices, leads to a lifestyle governed by the pleasure-seeking principle.
This means you can choose to:
Go out camping with friends instead of spending a lonely weekend at home
Help someone who is less fortunate than you (it will automatically elevate your mood)
Watch funny movies
Take a fun mini-vacation with family every month
Be around other happy people
Count your blessings daily
Yes, happiness is a state of mind, but also manifests in the way your body functions. Many studies have shown that a happier person tends to deal with illnesses, unforeseen shocking events and even with permanent disability better than those who hold a largely negative perception of life and aging.
Turns out, laughter is the best medicine. Maybe this explains why George Burns and Bob Hope lived so long.