Don't Worry. Be Happy! It's International Happy Day can be Better for Your Health and Lead to a Longer Life
I can't say this for sure, but I think everyone strives for happiness, right? I hear people say it differently, like, "I want to be famous", or "I want to be rich", or "I want a big house". What I really think they are saying is they want to be happy.
Well, today (March 20th) is the date that the United Nations has declared to be International Day of Happiness. They say it's the perfect day to focus on your quest to be happy. (Personally, I think everyday is the perfect day to focus on being happy). In a few paragraphs, I will share what the Happiness Doctor says are 4 Tips to Lead a Happier Life.
What is International Happiness Day?
What is the International Day of Happiness? It’s a day to be happy, of course! It was created by a government organization (blah, blah, blah) - but we don't need no organization to tell us to be happy. We can Just Do It! And some Experts are saying you will live longer.
What do the Experts say about Happiness and Making us Live Longer?
I’m pretty sure that laughter is not the best medicine. Nonetheless, the research consistently shows that happiness has impressive medical benefits. And these benefits include improvements to the immune system.
For example, when undergraduates in a study were exposed to the rhinovirus, they got sick. (What did you expect from the virus that causes the common cold?) The interesting finding concerned the participants who had their happiness levels boosted by the researchers just before being exposed to the virus. The researchers did this in simple ways, such as by showing humorous videos. Those people who were given the happiness boost were less likely to get the cold than those who didn’t have their happiness increased. And if they did get the cold, the happier students reported that the symptoms were less severe. The study was essentially repeated with the influenza virus, which causes the flu, with the same basic results. Undergraduates who were first given the happiness boost were more resistant to the flu virus.
In a more recent study, 350 adults volunteered to be exposed to the cold virus. (The subjects were compensated nicely.) The adults’ positive emotions, such as feeling energetic and pleased, were measured for two weeks before exposure to the virus. Those who reported the most positive emotions were less likely to develop the cold.
A study of dental students told a similar story. These students reported their mood three times a week for almost two months. They also had their saliva collected so that their immune systems’ effectiveness could be assessed. When the students’ immune systems were challenged by a pill containing a protein from rabbit blood, the response to this foreign material depended on the students’ moods. The response of the immune system was weaker on days marked by negative moods, and higher on days marked by positive moods.
More recently, researchers gave 81 graduate students two doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine causes the immune system to respond. After two doses, the students rated themselves on nine positive emotions. Those who reported high levels of positive emotions had a much stronger immune response.
So is the secret to a healthy immune system as simple as smiling? Well, certainly not if those smiles are faked. When bus drivers’ smiling and moods were monitored for two weeks, researchers found that the drivers’ moods got worse and they withdrew from work when they faked smiles. And faking smiles was particularly hard on women. However, when the drivers gave more authentic smiles, by focusing on pleasant thoughts and memories, their moods and productivity improved.
Happiness is associated with many benefits, such as better relationships and a longer life. Happiness is also associated with physical changes in the immune system. So how do we increase our happiness?
To help get you to that joyful place, here is what Dr. Mark D. Holder has to say — By the way, he considers himself the Happiness Doctor. Doc Mark is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, where he studies the science of happiness. And he’s got four solid tips to help you personally increase yours.
Be social“First,” Holder stresses, “nurture your personal relationships.” Why? “Other people really matter”
Appreciate nature“The second thing you can do is spend mindful time in nature,” Holder advises. “So it doesn’t seem to matter how much time or how frequently you’re in nature, but that when you’re in nature, you disconnect from social media and pay attention to the emotion it evokes. So maybe go out there and take photographs, or sketch nature.”
Move that body“The third thing you can do,” he says, “is exercise. We underestimate how much it’ll make us happy.”
Get spiritualThe final suggestion from Holder, he says, “is spirituality — and by that I don’t mean religiosity, but having a spiritual approach to life.”
You can even combine all four suggestions for maximum happiness effect, Holder says. “So for me, I’m an active mountain biker and an active skier. So I can go skiing or mountain biking with my friends, which is social, of course I’m getting exercise, I do this out in nature, and there’s a spiritual component to it, where I’m in awe of that beauty in nature that I experience.”
Doc Mark concludes, “That would be my sort of universal panacea for happiness, based on the research.”
So don't worry. Get happy!
Oh, and Live Long and Prosper.
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World Traveler, International Expat, Best Selling Author
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