All around the UK there are signs of life! Daffodil leaves are poking up through the grass and there’s even the occasional day of sunshine. But how can we stay happy even in the bad weather? (It’s still snowing every other day here in the midlands!) Well of course, your state of mind plays a big part in your happiness levels. In 2001, Deborah Danner, at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Gerontology looked at the autobiographies of 180 nuns for positive emotional content, and found that, unsurprisingly, the sisters who used positive words like “joy” and “thankful” lived up to 10 years longer than their grouchier counterparts.
Studies have shown a 32 percent difference in cortisol levels between the happiest and least happy subjects. Happy subjects also showed lower responses to stress in plasma fibrinogen levels, a protein that in high doses can signal future problems with heart disease.
Professor Sheldon Cohen of the Carnegie Mellon University also found that happy people are less likely to become ill when exposed to a cold virus. “We need to take more seriously the possibility that positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk,” he says.
Forgetting your problems can be difficult, especially when faced with an emotional crisis, like bereavement or sickness, but general levels of contentment rise when people are engaged in absorbing activities that cause them to forget themselves, lose track of time and stop worrying. Our viewpoint is also a key factor in how we cope with stressful events with studies showing that our response to stress can be altered by viewing something as either a ‘threat’ or a ‘challenge’. Challenges make us strive for more, making the stressors in our lives less threatening and thereby changing our lives for the better.
The Benefits of Laughter;
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine and growth hormone and is associated with reduced neuroendocrine, inflammatory and cardiovascular activity (so good for your heart in other words). It increases health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters and increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. The results? A stronger immune system, as well as less stress.
The how-to guide:
- Smile and the world smiles with you. “Always wear a smile. The gift of life will then be yours to give.” – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov 1772-1810
- Dr. Richard Wiseman, in his book 59 seconds: Think a Little Change a Lot, suggests placing a pencil between your teeth without letting your mouth touch it. In under a minute your ‘fake’ smile will actually boost your feeling of happiness.
- He also recommends the “5 Good Things” plan which asks you to write down five positive things that happened that day every night for 1 week in order to bring about those good feelings of gratitude. Doing this can increase your happiness levels by almost 10%.
- Laugh a lot. Comedies and stand-up comic DVDs will let you forget your worries, while endorphins go to work on maintaining that good feeling.
- Give compliments. Making other people happy will make you both happy (with you actually feeling slightly better than your recipient).
- Give small gifts to your friends. Remember: to give is better than to receive
- Go out and see a good movie.
- Treat yourself often – remember: supermarket trolleys won’t spit out a gift that’s not for your pet or the kids
- Break out the Pictionary and Scrabble and have a regular Game Night
- Read a funny book. I love this title I found recently: How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman
For more thoughts on happiness take a look here, and keep smiling: http://amarllyis.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/what-did-you-think-it-was-about/