Why Happiness is the Secret to a Longer, Healthier Life9 October, 2015
Ahead of Mental Health Day this Saturday 10 October, happiness expert Susanna Halonen (The Happyologist) tells us how happiness can be the secret to a longer life and gives us some tips on how we can make our happiness muscles stronger…
I used to think attaining things would give me happiness. I used to think getting that promotion, finding a great relationship and reaching my next weight loss goal would make me happy. They did – but only momentarily. As I dived deeper into the world of happiness I realised that I had the formula the wrong way around. It’s not success that fuels happiness, but happiness that fuels success. And the success I talk about definitely includes living a long, healthy life.
Luckily science has come to our rescue to make us realise that it’s happiness that we should focus our efforts on if we want to live a successful, healthy and long life. Here’s why:
– Engage in more health promoting behaviours. This reduces the likelihood of both mental and physical illnesses.
– Have a lower heart rate and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This makes them less likely to suffer from stress related health issues like back pain and burnout.
– Have improved awareness because their dopamine and serotonin fuelled brains are more alert. This makes them more focused in all tasks and as a result less likely to be involved in clumsy accidents.
– Are more accurate and quicker in making the right decisions, whilst still being open minded. This makes them more productive at work and in life overall.
– Live longer lives. People who feel happy and fulfilled in their lives live longer than those without happiness and fulfilment. Also, those who approach ageing from a positive angle live on average 7 and a half years longer than those who see ageing as something negative.
As you can see, happiness is no joke. In fact, it’s serious business. It helps you to live healthily, cuts your stress and improves your brain functionality. All that topped off with living longer lives as well.
With all that in mind, it’s no surprise that happiness is discussed more and more in today’s society. And the good news is that happiness is something you choose rather than chase. You can truly train yourself to be happy by choosing happiness daily and turning it into a habit.
Here are five things you can do right now (and again and again) to make your happiness muscle stronger.
1. Write down three things you are grateful for today.
Finish every day by writing down three things you are grateful for in that day. Be specific. This will help you to appreciate the big and small things in your life. Doing it over and over again will shift your attitude to one of gratitude and optimism as you will actively start to look for things to be grateful for. Do this for 21 days in a row and you’ll turn gratitude into a happy habit.
2. Take five minutes to write about your most meaningful experience in the past 48 hours.
Writing is a form of therapy in itself and focusing your writing on a positive experience makes it even more powerful. Pick an event in the past two days you found to be really meaningful to you. Write about it for five minutes. You’ll get an immediate positivity boost as you reminisce about it, and in the long term it will also feed the sense of meaning in your life overall.
3. Write a positive message to someone you know.
Happiness is always best shared. Write an email, a text message or a letter (yes let’s go old school!) to someone you know and appreciate in your life. You could simply thank them for being in your life, or thank them for something specific they’ve helped you with. Whatever you put in the message, make sure it’s positive – it will be fuelling not only your happiness but theirs too!
4. Meditate – even if it’s only 5 minutes.
A cluttered mind leads to a cluttered life. Meditation clears your mind in a way that gives you focus and control back. It also gives you some time simply to sit with yourself – and it’s so important to make sure you give yourself some attention and care too. Achieving greater mindfulness through meditation leads to better sleep quality, improved emotional stability and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
5. Exercise – even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.
There’s nothing like the endorphin rush that you get from exercising. You feel happier, less anxious and a sense of accomplishment by giving your body the attention and movement it craves. It even results in the creation of new brain cells in the part of your brain that’s responsible for learning and memory!
You could commit less than an hour a day to these new happiness habits and you would be reducing your stress, improving your focus and boosting your happiness. I think this is a reasonable ask of yourself for yourself. After all, if you want to create a happier world, you’ve got to start with yourself.
Start putting these into practice today and you’ll live a long, happy and healthy life whilst inspiring your loved ones to do the same.