Science has been exploring the connection between happiness and longevity for some time. A 2011 analysis of nearly 4,000 Brits found those who said they felt content, happy or excited on a typical day were up to 35% less likely to die prematurely. In a 2016 study, a positive outlook was associated with longer life for nearly 4,000 older French men and women studied over 22 years.
Researchers followed more than 2,000 Mexican-Americans in 2015 and found those who were more positive in their world view were half as likely to die. And a 2011 study followed around 200 women and men from San Francisco over 13 years and found those who reported more positive than negative experiences also lived longer.
According to research on the Positive Psychology Center website, striving for well-being will allow you to perform better at work, have better relationships, a stronger immune system, fewer sleep problems, lower levels of burnout, better physical health and — you’ll live longer.
Great! But how do you obtain happiness? That’s the tough question, especially since the meaning of the word isn’t even scientifically agreed upon.
“Happiness comes in different sizes and flavors,” said cardiologist Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who studies optimism.
“There is the transient type, fed by such things as a walk in a park, spending time with a friend, or eating that ice cream you love,” he continued. “But these feelings of happiness come and go.”
What creates a sustained feeling of happiness, say experts, is a mixture of traits like optimism and resilience, fed by behaviors such as expressing gratitude, forgiveness and being kind to others, all held together by a strong sense of purpose.
Add to that mix one master ingredient: a sense of community characterized by warm, supportive, satisfying relationships with others.
Now that we have something of a working recipe for happiness, let’s find the ingredients…
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