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So everyone is going on about being happy and positive all the time. But should we just be happy for the sake of being happy or are there more positive side effects to it?

So you obviously don’t want to be happy all day, every day. That would be exhausting, and other people would probably find you exhausting too. So lets steer clear of putting that down as a goal. But why should we want to have general well-being in the long term?

There has actually been a study on longevity and happiness. It’s called the Nun Study. You’re probably wondering how on earth did someone measure happiness?

Well apparently there has been developed a measure, by looking at how you write about past experiences. To say it simply, they look at how many positive words you use in your descriptions versus how many negative words you use. By doing so they can place you on a scale and tell whether you are happier or less happy then the next person.

Now what the researchers did next was to find a group of women who had all converted to Nuns sometime back in the day (1920’s). As a part of becoming a nun they had to write their life story. All the nuns lived together with a similar schedule, same living conditions, similar diet etc, etc. (you can hardly ask for a more controlled environment then that). The results showed that the happiest nuns lived 10 years longer than the least happy nuns. 10 years!! Now when you are 70 or 80 years old, ten years is a HUGE amount of time.

Not only do you live longer, but increased happiness is actually correlated with fending off depression, better abilities to cope with stress, building optimism, tranquility, resilience, vagal tone (what the hell is that?) – Heart health! (it’s something to do with your heartbeat). Your heart actually gets stronger from being happy, how awesome is that!  The list just goes on and on.

(However, there are not only good side effects. I blogged about some negative aspects of happiness here)

I found so many more studies on this subject when I was searching. But, I think I’d better stop this blog post right here or I will go on for ages.

Hope you enjoy your day!

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What does being happy do for us?

3 thoughts on “What does being happy do for us?

  1. Research studies certainly agree with the points you made in your well written article. The only thing that I disagree with is your statement that being happy combats depression.

    Being happy is not something that you can simply “make happen” as an act of will when your brain is malfunctioning – which is the cause of most depression. It isn’t situational. It is an illness like diabetes or hypertension.

    You did write a great article otherwise.

    • Thank you for that Roxanne,

      I completely agree with you. It would be interesting to see how the correlation between happiness and fending off depression came about. Off the top of my head, I am thinking if depression is due to your belief system (cognitive factors), so believing that you are not worthy, changing that could lead to less depression as well as increased well-being (a spurious relationship maybe?). However, like you say, if you are predisposed to depression due to some neurotransmitter imbalances it is a whole other story.

      Thanks for commenting, it’s deeply appreciated

      Camilla

      • Thank you for your response. The term “depression”, not unlike the word “addiction”, gets used casually. True depression is not the same as lack of self-esteem or self-doubts. It is a clinical disease . My problem with using iy casually is that it stigmatizes those afflicted with the mental disorder. It suggests that their illness is self-inflicted because of thinking the wrong thoughts.

        Thinking negative thoughts and having the habit of worrying will surely make a person unhappy. Mourning over a romantic breakup without doing things that you improve one’s mood such as exercise and staying involved with friends will keep a person miserable.

        Those aren’t instances of actual depression, however. They are sadness and unhappiness and choosing to stay stuck in unproductive habits. And you’re right, there are cognitive therapies that can be very, very helpful in those situations.

        The disease of depression is widely misunderstood. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. The symptoms can often be improved through diet, staying on a sleep schedule, exercise (particularly), meditation, avoiding alcohol, and medication. Depression can come and go, depending on certain stressors, but there are times when life is going great, and depression will occur. Just as many other illness can flare up without clear cause-effect.

        Think of it as a gimpy knee. If certain activities stressed that knee, you’ll experience pain, swelling, and sometimes to the point of immobilization. And although there are things you might do that can strengthen that knee, It may remain a weak spot. No one would suggest that someone with a bad knee can relieve the problem of it’s impaired function by thinking more positive thoughts. And that’s what I’m saying about true, clinical depression. It is as physical an issue as a gimpy knee.

        Thank you for letting me write all these comments. I appreciate the opportunity to spread the word about depression in an effort to destigmatize it. It’s hard enough to cope with it’s often crippling effects without people suggesting that “it’s all in your head.” It is, however, all in one’s brain.

        I did enjoy your article. I look forward to reading more of your writings. Thank you sincerely for engaging with me.

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