How happiness improves our lives is easy to figure out even though being happy or unhappy may not be as clear-cut as we would like to believe. However, most of us will agree on one thing; being happy helps us lead better, healthier lives. Happiness is relative and subjective. Things that make you happy may not be the same things that make someone else happy.
Whether we are Black, White, Yellow, or Purple, we all have one thing in common, when we feel healthy, our self-confidence grows. Furthermore, greater self-confidence leads to higher levels of happiness.
Science is now taking the complementary cycle of health and happiness a step further. Studies have proven that there is a strong link between positive emotions and better physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
So, good health influences our emotional well-being and vice-versa. This principle has a tremendous impact on quality of life issues. Some people, myself included, believe that it also has the ability to help you live longer and age more gracefully.
How Happiness Affects People, University College London
An excellent example of this principle in action was demonstrated in a study done at the University College London. Researchers divided over 3800 participants aged 52 – 79 into three groups. People were placed in different groups based on answers to a questionnaire, which measured their overall levels of happiness and positivity.
Over the course of the study, which lasted 5 years, each participant was asked to record his or her emotional levels (happy, anxious, gloomy, tired, etc.) at 4 specific times during the day.
After 5 years, 7% of those in the “least happy” group had died. Notably, 5% in the middle group had passed away and only 4% in the group with the happiest people.
The study went on to prove that from day to day, our emotions and thoughts can vary a great deal, which is normal. However, when looked at collectively, all the emotions grouped together created a window that researchers could look through and see a picture of the participants’ dispositions.
Your disposition influences how you see yourself, your life goals, and your overall health. Have you ever met someone who is mean or someone who complains all the time? Did you know that these thoughts can affect your physical and mental health?
This is because our thoughts and emotions affect the way our endocrine and immune systems work and function. They also influence our stress hormone (cortisol) levels, which snap our brains into focus and force our muscles to act swiftly in times of emergencies.
Stress and Happiness
This ‘fight-or-flight’ response is inherent in all of humans and humans. However, the difference is that the stress animals experience is short-lived, and they promptly return to their normal state of balanced homeostasis.
Humans, however, hold on to their stress for much longer. People sometimes hold onto stress until it becomes chronic and debilitating. Stress soon weakens our ability to focus, concentrate, and remember things. It makes us depressed and less able to connect with others.
Stress and DNA Telomeres
Stress also has been scientifically proven to shorten our telomeres.
In each of your cells, you have forty six strands of DNA coiled into chromosomes. At the tip of each chromosome, there’s a tiny cap called a telomere, which keeps your DNA from unraveling and fraying. Source: How Not To Die Micheal Greger M.D.
The telomeres at the end of our DNA act like the plastic tips at the end of shoe strings. The telomeres help keep DNA from unraveling or getting tangled each time a cell divides. Yet, even though they safeguard DNA strands, they get shorter and shorter each time a cell divides.
Over time, a cell’s telomeres become so short that the cells are unable to divide anymore. What happens next is that DNA strands start unraveling; cells become inactive and eventually die off – a prominent sign of aging.
They can start shortening as soon as you’re born, and when they’re gone , you’re gone. Source: How Not To Die Michael Greger M.D.
This is why scientists are so keen on keeping our telomeres long because the longer the telomeres, the healthier the cell, which means a longer, healthier life.
Steps to Living a Long Life
Here are a few lifestyle changes that can protect telomeres for a longer period of time:
- Regular exercise
- Eat foods high in vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamin B12, D, E and C, Zinc and Omega-3
- Reduce stress and maintain a positive outlook on life. In short, aging is inevitable, but we can make sure that we stay healthier and happier longer.To keep happiness in your life, integrate these habits into your daily lifestyle
- Stay optimistic so you can develop healthy coping strategies (releases endorphins)
- Have goals in life; embrace your weaknesses and strengths, but focus more on the latter (secretes dopamine)
- Help other people and practice gratitude (secretes serotonin)
- Connect with others, build a strong social fabric and surround yourself with other happy, goal-oriented people (secretes oxytocin)
- Focus on living a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly (secretes endorphins)
- Know how to look at a problem from all angles
- Don’t be dependent on others or materialistic gains for happiness
So what makes you happy? I’m talking about true happiness, not the fake kind that you get after drinking alcohol or eating a big meal. See you soon.