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The happiness-health connection

(Harvard HEALTHbeat) Want to improve your health? Start by focusing on the things that bring you happiness. There is some scientific evidence that positive emotions can help make your life longer and healthier.

But to produce good health, positive emotions may need to be long term. In other words, thinking positive thoughts for a month when you already have heart disease won’t cure the disease. But lowering your stress levels over a period of years with a positive outlook and relaxation techniques could reduce your risk of heart problems.

In an early phase of positive psychology research, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan chose three pathways to examine:

  • Feeling good. Seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations…
  • Engaging fully. Pursuing activities that engage you fully…
  • Doing good. Searching for meaning outside yourself.

Through focus groups and testing hundreds of volunteers, they found that each of these pathways individually contributes to life satisfaction…

People tend to be poor judges of what will make them happy. While most people say they want to be happy, they often believe in myths or carry assumptions that actually get in the way. Here are some widely held myths about what will bring happiness:

  • Money and material things. The question of whether money can buy happiness has, for more than 30 years, been addressed by the “Easterlin paradox,” a concept developed by economist Richard Easterlin. His research showed that people in poor countries are happier when their basic necessities are covered. But any money beyond that doesn’t make much difference in happiness level…
  • Youth. Being young and physically attractive has little or no bearing on happiness.
  • Children. Children can be a tremendous source of joy and fulfillment, but their day-to-day care is quite demanding and can increase stress, financial pressures, and marital strife.

Read more.

Community: As with anything else, the three pathways described above can be overdone.

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Please do not give advice. We can best help each other by telling what works for us, not what we think someone else should do.