Surprising new research suggests just being happy cuts our risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and brain illnesses so dramatically, it adds 12 years to your life!
The reason is simple: Happy people produce far less of two major health-wreckers, the stress hormone cortisol and a protein called interleukin-6. The problem with these trouble-makers? They kickstart cell-damaging inflammation, which speeds aging in virtually every organ of the body.
Scared because you’re not feeling too sunny right now? Not to worry! Researchers have also discovered that happiness is far more easily acquired than you might think. In fact, using the following simple tips will instantly boost your happiness quotient – and your health…
1. Switch off the TV news! Start reading the newspaper instead. TV news is full of shocking, saddening images and focused on disturbing stories. No wonder a British study found that watching it for as little as 15 minutes made people feel anxious and blue – plus heightened their stress levels!
By contrast, reading the newspaper lets you choose from a broad range of stories, including inspirational and entertaining ones, notes biochemist Shawn Talbott, Ph.D. And still photos – even those that depict upsetting situations like house fires and accidents – are proven to be less upsetting than video images.
2. Reach out a hand! A new study reveals that any charitable effort – making a casserole for an under-the-weather friend, lending a hand at the school bake sale or donating a few books to the library – boosts your sense of well-being by decreasing anxiety and sadness and making you more content with your life.
“People who do little things for others are significantly happier,” confirms Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C.
3. Nourish your brain! Study after study has shown that eating fish three times each week can help you feel calmer and happier in as little as one month.
“The credit goes to fish’s rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids – essential fats that build up the brain’s stores of natural antidepressant hormones,” says Dr. Rosenthal. “Even if your diet is otherwise healthy, not getting enough of these fats can dampen your mood.” Not surprisingly, research shows that people who make fish part of their weekly menu – or substitute omega-3-rich walnuts and flaxseed oil, instead – are three times more likely to feel calm and happy on a day-to-day basis!
4. Stay connected! Amazingly, a study found that 72% of stressed women who carved out time for having fun with friends reported feeling happier day-to-day – an improvement that even the most powerful antidepressants can’t match.
Too busy for an evening out? Pause for 15 minutes to have a snack with a friendly co-worker, or send a “Thinking of You” e-card to a friend, suggests clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., professor at California’s Pepperdine University. “Adding a few minutes of happiness and laughter to each day can give you all the great health perks of friendship, no matter how hectic your schedule!”
5. Count your blessings! Doctors at the University of California say that people who take note of all the good things that happen each day quickly become calmer and more optimistic, plus they sleep better and have at least 13% fewer viral infections!
And you don’t have to focus on the biggies, either. Just keep a notebook tucked in your purse, and if a great haircut and a tidy kitchen are what made you smile today, jot them down and you’ll reap the benefits!
~contributed by Brenda Kearns