Are happy people healthier?
It seems to be so, according to scientific studies showing a link between a person's contentment with life and better physical health. It comes as no surprise that people who consider themselves to be happy usually experience less mental health problems, but the idea that a positive emotional state can significantly affect a person physically is a fairly new concept. Though the exact pathways remain unclear, higher levels of reported happiness have correlated to positive effects on almost all areas of the body.
One of the ways happiness is thought to increase health is by combating stress, which has been shown to have an adverse effect on virtually all body systems. Happy people do not necessarily experience less stress, but their positive outlook helps them deal with stressful situations in a more productive manner.
Cheerful people also tend to experience less pain throughout their lives. Since pain levels are almost totally subjective, it is possible that a happier person may notice small aches and pains less frequently than a more pessimistic person.
People who report themselves to be more satisfied with life have shown a tendency to have longer lifespans. Among populations with similar lifestyles, a much higher percentage of happy people were alive past age ninety.
On the other hand, people who report themselves to be less satisfied with life also report more physical ailments. From the common cold to chronic health problems, science seems to indicate that having a grim outlook on life can impair the immune system's function an increase the occurrence of physical illness.
So how can the healing power of happiness be harnessed?
One of the most effective ways to become a more contented person is to practice gratitude. Since it may not come naturally, this is a skill that must literally be "practiced". Make it a habit to seek out the good in any circumstance; even in the worst ones there is always be something to be grateful for. Your body (and the people around you) will thank you for it.
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