Health and Happiness
Observers rated them on a scale of one to five for the extent to which they expressed positive emotions like joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and contentment. Ten years later, the researchers checked in with the participants to see how they were doing—and it turned out that the happier ones were less likely to have developed coronary heart disease. In fact, for each one-point increase in positive emotions they had expressed, their heart disease risk was 22 percent lower.
Six Ways Happiness Is Good for Your Health
Do you know a grumpy person who always seems to be getting sick? That may be no coincidence: Research is now finding a link between happiness and a stronger immune system.
Before exposure, researchers called them six times in two weeks and asked how much they had experienced nine positive emotions—such as feeling energetic, pleased, and calm—that day. After five days in quarantine, the participants with the most positive emotions were less likely to have developed a cold. Some of the same researchers wanted to investigate why happier people might be less susceptible to sickness, so in a study they gave 81 graduate students the hepatitis B vaccine. After receiving the first two doses, participants rated themselves on those same nine positive emotions.
The ones who were high in positive emotion were nearly twice as likely to have a high antibody response to the vaccine—a sign of a robust immune system. Instead of merely affecting symptoms, happiness seemed to be literally working on a cellular level. A much earlier experiment found that immune system activity in the same individual goes up and down depending on their happiness. For two months, 30 male dental students took pills containing a harmless blood protein from rabbits, which causes an immune response in humans.
What makes people happy?
They also rated whether they had experienced various positive moods that day. On days when they were happier, participants had a better immune response, as measured by the presence of an antibody in their saliva that defends against foreign substances. Stress is not only upsetting on a psychological level but also triggers biological changes in our hormones and blood pressure. Happiness seems to temper these effects, or at least help us recover more quickly. In the study mentioned above, where participants rated their happiness more than 30 times in a day, researchers also found associations between happiness and stress.
The happiest participants had 23 percent lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the least happy, and another indicator of stress—the level of a blood-clotting protein that increases after stress—was 12 times lower. Happiness also seems to carry benefits even when stress is inevitable.
In a study , some diabolically cruel researchers decided to stress out psychology students and see how they reacted. The students were led to a soundproof chamber, where they first answered questions indicating whether they generally felt 10 feelings like enthusiasm or pride. Then came their worst nightmare: They had to answer an exceedingly difficult statistics question while being videotaped, and they were told that their professor would evaluate their response.
Throughout the process, their heart was measured with an electrocardiogram EKG machine and a blood pressure monitor. In the wake of such stress, the hearts of the happiest students recovered most quickly. A study asked participants to rate their recent experience of positive emotions, then five weeks later how much they had experienced negative symptoms like muscle strain, dizziness, and heartburn since the study began.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have consistently been associated with a range of health benefits, including lower risks of diabetes, stroke and heart disease 4 , 5 , 6. Regular physical activity helps build strong bones, increase energy levels, decrease body fat and lower blood pressure 7 , 8 , 9. That said, a review of 44 studies concluded that, while there appears to be a link between positive well-being and sleep outcomes, further research from well-designed studies is needed to confirm the association A healthy immune system is important for overall health.
Healthy Lifestyle and Happiness | HowStuffWorks
Research has shown that being happier may help keep your immune system strong This may help reduce your risk of developing colds and chest infections One study in over healthy people looked at the risk of developing a cold after individuals were given a common cold virus via nasal drops. The least happy people were almost three times as likely to develop the common cold compared to their happier counterparts In another study, researchers gave 81 university students a vaccine against hepatitis B, a virus that attacks the liver.
Happier students were nearly twice as likely to have a high antibody response, a sign of a strong immune system It may be due to the impact of happiness on the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal HPA axis, which regulates your immune system, hormones, digestion and stress levels 18 , These include healthy eating habits and regular physical activity Being happy may help reduce stress levels 20 , Normally, excess stress causes an increase in levels of cortisol , a hormone that contributes to many of the harmful effects of stress, including disturbed sleep, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
A number of studies demonstrate that cortisol levels tend to be lower when people are happier 22 , 23 , These effects appeared to persist over time.
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Happiness may protect the heart by reducing blood pressure , a major risk factor for heart disease 27 , Happiness may also reduce the risk of heart disease, the biggest cause of death worldwide It appears that happiness may also help protect people who already have heart disease. It is important to note that some of these effects may have been due to an increase in heart-healthy behaviors such as physical activity, avoiding smoking and healthy eating habits 1 , 2 , 10 , That said, not all studies have found associations between happiness and heart disease In fact, a recent study that looked at nearly 1, individuals over a year period found no association between positive well-being and the risk of heart disease On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening of blood vessels.
Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength is a guide to the concepts that can help you find well-being and happiness, based on the latest research. Want to feel better and improve your health?
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Start by focusing on the things that bring you happiness. Scientific evidence suggests that positive emotions can help make life longer and healthier. But fleeting positive emotions aren't enough. Lowering your stress levels over a period of years with a positive outlook and relaxation techniques could reduce your risk of health problems. In an early phase of positive psychology research, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan chose three pathways to examine:.