If your’e happy and you know it clap your hands…goes the children’s song. Now there’s a new twist: If you’re happy and you know it you just might live longer, suggests a new study just out by the University College of London.
This wasn’t just based on a “Are you happy” questionnaire. People tend to tell you what they want you to hear, or what they need to believe for themselves.
English Longitudinal Study of Aging followed more than 11,000 people age 50 and older since 2002 and in 2004 they collected saliva samples on about 4700 participants. These samples were collected four times in one day and their moods were noted: happy, excited, content, worried, anxious, or fearful they felt at the time. Steptoe and his UCL colleague Jane Wardle have now published their findings on the links between mood and mortality in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
Here’s their analysis:
Of the 924 people who reported the least positive feelings, 7.3%, or 67, died within 5 years. For people with the most positive feelings, the rate fell in half, to 3.6%, or 50 of 1399 people (The researchers adjusted for age, sex, demographic factors such as wealth and education, signs of depression, health, including whether they’d been diagnosed with major diseases), and health behaviors such as smoking and physical activity).
Even with those variables, the risk of dying in the next 5 years was still 35% lower for the happiest people.
But what if you’re not just one of those giddy, always up-beat types?
This is just my take, but there are many ways to be happy. People with dry wit, cynical types who see the world in a slant, and folks who aren’t the silly types, but who find a way to make things easy–these are all types of happiness.
I think we can carve our own happiness, and it may not look like someone else’s happiness.
Start a list:
- What comforts or soothes you?
- Add your favorite foods
- Make a list of music you enjoy
- Think about people you hang out with who just make you feel good
- What every day activities do you find pleasing? Do you like to fold clothes or wash dishes by hand?
- Have you watched one of your oldie but goodie movies you like lately?
- Memorize three funny jokes–and share them!
This is the beginning of your happiness list.
Happiness isn’t out there–for others–it starts with the simple things.
Author of Mothering Mother