If you thought that being happy is just new-age nonsense, then it’s time to seriously reconsider because here’s some hard evidence.
The Science of Happiness
In New York, researchers closely examined 15 studies involving 229,391 participants over a span of 14 years.
And the data shows that happy people are less likely to experience heart attacks and strokes than their “moodier” counterparts. And the happy ones also tend to live longer.
The lighter-hearted people are 35% less likely to have heart attacks and strokes, and 14% less likely to die from any other reason.
The results speak volumes about how your mindset directly affects your physical health and well-being.
Happy Mind, Healthy Body
Dr Alan Rozanski, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City explains that optimists tend to have better health habits that help them to live longer.
For example, they tend to eat healthier, exercise more, smoke less or avoid smoking completely. They are also better able to cope with health issues and are more proactive about their health. They are able to manage tough times without turning to unhealthy habits.
Pessimism, on the other hand, tends to take a toll on the body in the form of bodily inflammation and metabolic abnormalities that can lead to shorter lifespans.
While many studies over the years have proven that stress and mood disorders lead to a higher risk of heart disease, the new study offers fresh proof on how someone’s mental outlook can directly affect heart health.
“Optimism has long been linked to better performance in school and in such jobs as sales, sports, political endeavours and social relationships, but it’s also an important health issue that has not been well-studied until now,” said Dr Rozanski.
10 of the studies analysed focused on the link between optimism and ailments like heart attacks and strokes, while the other 9 analysed deaths from all causes.
Participants were assessed based on Life Orientation Tests, a questionnaire with 6 standard questions regarding their thoughts about the future.
Questions were also asked about whether the participants expected the best, even during uncertain times, or whether they expected problems to go their way.
Other risk factors like depression and inactivity were also taken into account.
Dr Jeff Huffman, Director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston explained that it is still not clear whether optimism can be adopted by a person, or whether they are born with it.
Increasing Evidence of Link Between Happiness and Good Health
“There is increasing evidence that positive psychology programmes that help people to cultivate skills in experiencing positive emotions might indeed work,” Dr Huffman wrote.
“These programmes train people to imagine a better future, to savour positive things when they happen, and to use their strengths when taking on a challenge,” he added.
Find Joy With Others
So, how can you be happy and live longer?
Register at Meetup.com and look for “laughter therapy”. Or join activities that make you happy like movie outings, adventure trips and much more. You really don’t have to be lonely and sad if you force yourself to go out and socialize.
Netflix can only keep you entertained for so long.