Happiness may just be the best medicine around. By learning how to be happier, you’ll not only feel better emotionally but also transform your overall health. Studies show that boosting happiness can cut your risk of heart disease in half, lower your chances of developing cancer or diabetes, and extend your life by up to 10 years. The main reason behind all of these benefits is that happy people produce less of the stress hormone cortisol, which can age the body before its time.
What exactly is happiness? According to Christine Carter, PhD, a leading expert on happiness and the author of Raising Happiness, a happy life is one lived with many different positive emotions, such as love and compassion. Happiness doesn’t just exist in the now, but also in reflecting on the past and planning for the future. You need to attach positive emotions to the past, such as gratitude, and positive feelings toward the future, such as hope, optimism and confidence.
Many people have a hard time finding sustained happiness partly because too many of us pursue gratification in material things, which creates a bit of pleasure but doesn’t cause real joy or lasting happiness. According to Dr. Carter, there are three primary reasons for unhappiness:
- Perfectionism often leads to dissatisfaction, which can cause stress.
- Materialism focuses on getting rather than giving and only provides temporary satisfaction.
- Entitlement translates as disappointment with what you don’t have rather than gratefulness for what you do have.