How to live longer: Happiness could add up to a decade onto your lifespan

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

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Wellbeing is thought to “play an additional protective role in the course of physical illness”, and is associated with survival in older populations. Choosing happiness is linked to a 19 percent reduction in all-cause mortality. Supportive and positive relationships were good for wellbeing, and a positive mental attitude “predicts better immune functioning in older adults”. The report synthesised by the British government suggested that the tendency to experience positive emotions was associated with greater immunity.

Those who didn’t enjoy life were three times more at risk of dying earlier than those who enjoyed life to the fullest.

These results were independent of age, sex, ethnicity, wealth, education, baseline health and other factors.

Adding to the notion that a positive mental attitude can extend your lifespan is research from University College London.

The researchers came to the same conclusion after analysing a huge database from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

There were 3,853 individuals, aged 52 to 79 years old, who were involved in the analysis.

Their “positive affect” (i.e happiness) were aggregated over a single day, with their health outcomes measured in a five-year follow-up period.

Respondents who were categorised in to the lowest third of positive affect – meaning they felt the most glum – had a death rate of 7.3 percent.

The number of death cases in the five-year follow-up period dropped to 4.6 percent for those not as glum, but not the happiest of the respondents.

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Those who were categorised as the most happiest, on the other hand, had a further reduction of death cases of 3.6 percent.

This suggests that miserable folks are more inclined to have an earlier grave by four percent.

On the reverse, the same statistics suggest that you can extend longevity by four percent if you choose to be happy.

The researches noted that happiness experienced over a single day had a positive impact on longevity.

Choose to be happy

Psychologist Dan Bowling suggests taking a big picture approach to life.

Bowling adheres to the maxim: “If it’s not going to matter to you in a year, don’t let it bother you.”

The doctor is talking about the field of positive psychology, spearheaded by American psychologist Martin Seligman.

Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, said: “Happiness can be a choice, and it’s something you can practice.”

Psychology Today recommend leaning towards important and positive relationships – the people who make you smile when you see them.

In addition, it’s best to stay away from those “who steal your energy, leaving you feeling drained, exhausted, and unhappy”.

It’ll also help to challenge any negative beliefs you may have. For example, do you feel you never get what you want?

Take a closer look at that misinformed belief, can you think of times where you have gotten what you wanted?

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