4 Surprising Benefits of Being Happy

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“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”

James Oppenheim

There’s some debate as to whether happiness is a worthwhile pursuit. After all, seeking it may push it even further away. However, there’s enough scientific evidence linking happiness with health and well-being that it’s certainly worth exploring. Plus, happiness feels good, and—as if that weren’t enough of a reason to focus on the things that make us happy—it also plays a big role in the recovery and healing process. So, if you’re feeling under the weather or recovering from an injury, staying positive can make a—well—positive difference.

Still not sure how happiness—or lack thereof—plays into your life? Here are four surprising benefits of being happy:

  1. It boosts motivation, engagement, creativity, energy, health, and resiliency. In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes, “happiness fuels success, not the other way around.” (You can watch his very entertaining TEDx talk here.)
  2. It improves productivity. Andrew Oswald is an economics professor at Warwick Business School and a leading expert on the relationship between economics and mental health. He and his team found that “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.” In fact, “positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
  3. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. After reviewing a decade’s worth of data on approximately 1,700 individuals in Nova Scotia, Karina Davidson and her research team at Columbia University found that people who are “generally upbeat, enthusiastic, and content” have less risk of developing heart disease than people who are not.
  4. It lengthens life expectancy. Dr. David Snowdon conducted a longitudinal study on aging and Alzheimer’s disease with the School Sisters of Notre Dame and found that sisters who displayed more positive emotions lived longer—a full decade longer, in some cases—than sisters who displayed less positive emotions.

And now for a little perspective: According to palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, one of the top five most common things dying patients wished they had done differently during their lifetime was to let themselves be happier. That means that on death’s door, they weren’t wishing for more success. They weren’t wishing for more money or more status symbols. Instead, people wished they had granted themselves permission to be happy. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Look into your future. Will this be one of your regrets? If so, there’s still time to do something about it.

Here’s the full list from Ware’s book titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”:

  1. Lived a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them
  2. Not worked so hard
  3. Expressed their feelings
  4. Stayed in touch with friends
  5. Let themselves be happier

 

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