According to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, a review of more than 160 studies has found “clear and compelling evidence” that – all things being equal – happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.
“Your subjective well-being – that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed – contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations,” said lead study author, Ed Diener, Ph.d.
The good news? Recent research reports that you can change your thoughts, actions and habits to increase your happiness. To increase your happiness, consider the following:
Live with purpose. People who strive for something personally significant – whether it’s learning a new skill, raising a good family, or changing careers – are happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Pick one or more significant goals and devote time and effort pursuing them.
Nurture your relationships. A Japanese study found that contented people’s happy experiences most often involved connecting with someone. Happy people have a strong bond with at least two out of three of these essential relationships: a partner, a friend, or a parent. Experts say the best way to improve a relationship is to invest time and energy in it.
Count your blessings. One way to feel happier is to recognize good things when they happen. Express gratitude for what you have privately and also by conveying appreciation to others. If you have trouble counting your blessings, try keeping a gratitude journal. Write down three to five things you’re grateful for once a week. Several studies show that people who record what they appreciate experience greater happiness and less anxiety.
Develop healthy coping strategies. It’s hard to be happy if you’re chronically over-stressed and emotionally drained. Stress and anxiety are huge barriers to health and happiness. Research from Harvard Medical School has found that women 100 years and older share a common trait – they’re not plagued by negative feelings such as guilt, anger, fear and sadness. Find and practice healthy ways to manage stress, hardship or trauma.
Move your body. Research overwhelmingly shows that people who exercise are happier. Make some form of exercise – such as brisk walking, running, swimming or yoga – a regular habit. When you exercise, your body produces valuable brain chemicals and hormones – like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline – that positively impact your energy, mood and health. Also important to feeling happier: Eat a nutritious diet and get adequate sleep.