Welcome to the health and happiness blog.

Today’s start the week blog is all about how to be happy.

5 fabulous, fool-proof ways to feel happier- based on science

Like most people, you may have thought that being happy was a nice thing but not that important in terms of health and success. Well, it turns out the research completely turns this view on its head.

Health effects of happiness

A pivotal study (Diener E. & Chan M.Y., 2011) found that those with high happiness levels (measured as subjective well-being in psychological jargon) had, compared to their less happy friends, an average of an extra 10 years longevity – 10 extra healthy, happy years.

When you compare that to the cost of smoking on health, which is on average a reduction in life span of 10 to 14 years, it raises the importance of improving our happiness levels.

Also – free top tip – don’t be a grumpy smoker, it’s double bad.

Productivity, success and happiness

Another study found that productivity was lower in those who were unhappier (Oswald et al., 2015) and others found that happiness does not follow success (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2008).. If this was so, they argue, then everyone would be happy following each promotion, each good grade, acquiring each new thing. Instead, all those achievements seem to do is push ‘the next mountain to climb’ as the true goal and those temporary successes are readily dismissed as ‘not there yet’ goals. In fact although happiness is linked to success, the researchers suggest it precedes it rather than is a result of it (Boehm & Lyubomirsky, 2008), so that being happy will drive success rather than the other way around.

Given the wealth of research on the subject, maybe it’s time we recognised that finding ways to be happy is an essential ingredient for improving our health, quality of life and well-being. Here are the top 5 ways to feel happier, based on the science.

5 ways to happiness

There are thousands of paths to true happiness, philosophers over the ages have been fascinated by this goal, but here I present 5 of the easiest, effective and evidenced-based ways to get your happy back.

  1. Gratitude

Gratitude is defined as when you have a sense that something good has happened to you.

But there’s an extra dimension to it, as there needs to be a sense that someone/something else is largely responsible for this benefit. So, it’s more than just appreciating something, it’s also recognising it is as a gift to you.

Algoe’s theory of ‘find -remind- bind’ (Algoe, 2012) suggests that gratitude helps people find new relationships, reminds them of current important relationships and helps in developing relationships- these are all factors that are important to building your happiness.

It’s been linked to changes in your physical health, including your immune function, circulatory system, sugar handling and improves your psychological health (Aghababaei & Tabik, 2013; Hartanto et al., 2019; Hill et al., 2013; Krause et al., 2017; Mills et al., 2015).

Seligman, one of the primary researchers in the field suggests practice the 3 good things exercise. It’s a simple and powerful exercise which just requires you to consider, every day:

‘3 good things that went well and their causes’

And that’s it. Simple is good right?

Sharing it with someone else can also help, as it will increase the production of the bonding love hormone oxytocin.

So you know what to do…

For more details watch my video on the subject, and come back for the next of the five ways to happiness, next week

References

Aghababaei, N., & Tabik, M. T. (2013). Gratitude and mental health: Differences between religious and general gratitude in a Muslim context. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 16(8), 761–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2012.718754

Ahmed, S. P., Somerville, L. H., & Sebastian, C. L. (2018). Using temporal distancing to regulate emotion in adolescence: Modulation by reactive aggression. Cognition and Emotion, 32(4), 812–826. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2017.1358698

Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, Remind, and Bind: The Functions of Gratitude in Everyday Relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455–469. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00439.x

Boehm, J. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Does Happiness Promote Career Success? Journal of Career Assessment, 16(1), 101–116. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072707308140

Denny, B. T., & Ochsner, K. N. (2014). Behavioral effects of longitudinal training in cognitive reappraisal. Emotion, 14(2), 425–433. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035276

Diener E. & Chan M.Y. (2011). Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity. Appl. Psychol: Health Well-Being Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1), 1–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x

Hartanto, A., Lee, S. T. H., & Yong, J. C. (2019). Dispositional Gratitude Moderates the Association between Socioeconomic Status and Interleukin-6. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 802. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-37109-1

Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(1), 92–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011

Krause, N., Emmons, R. A., Ironson, G., & Hill, P. C. (2017). General feelings of gratitude, gratitude to god, and hemoglobin A1c: Exploring variations by gender. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(6), 639–650. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1326520

Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A., Wood, A., & Chopra, D. (2015). The role of gratitude in spiritual well-being in asymptomatic heart failure patients. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 2(1), 5–17. https://doi.org/10.1037/scp0000050

Oswald, A. J., Proto, E., & Sgroi, D. (2015). Happiness and Productivity. Journal of Labor Economics, 33(4), 789–822. https://doi.org/10.1086/681096

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