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Is Happiness the Secret to a Longer Life for Seniors?

By Nancy Kupka PhD, RN, Walgreens

Physician and philosopher Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said, “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”

Even if you don’t believe that bad memory contributes to happiness, most people would agree that good health might lead to happiness.

But does happiness lead to good health? Actually, yes.

Positive emotions are linked to better self-reported wellbeing in numerous scientific studies. Similarly, worry, anger and general unhappiness increase the risk of developing or worsening heart disease, arthritis and many other chronic health conditions.

How Happiness Affects Longevity

Happy people don't just enjoy life, they increase their chances of living longer.

Recently, researchers looked at happiness data for people in the U.S. over a six-year period. The participants were divided into three groups: people who reported that they were “very happy,” “pretty happy” or “not happy.”

The risk of death was lowest in the “very happy” group.

Specifically, when compared to the “very happy” group, the risk of death was six percent higher among those who were “pretty happy” and 14 percent higher among those who were “not happy.” These results were seen even after taking into account demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle-related factors.

Fortunately, researchers have found that unhappiness does not necessarily contribute to an early or unexpected death. But happiness sure makes the time you have easier and more enjoyable.

Tips for Finding Happiness in Everyday Life

So, what can you do to improve your happiness? Check out these tips that you can incorporate into your lifestyle for a better chance of happiness and good health:

  1. Form meaningful relationships with relatives, friends and acquaintances. Studies show that even taking care of a beloved pet can help.
  2. Get involved in social activities, including those that are worship-related. Try going on regular social outings, join a weekly exercise or art class or sign up for bridge club.
  3. Appreciate the simple pleasures, such as a keeping to a regular schedule, taking a walk in the park or spending time with a friend.
  4. Learn not to sweat small stressors. Try to look at the bigger picture and spend your energy on what really matters to you. When you feel stressed, try using mindfulness, meditation, exercise or any other stress-release techniques that work for you.
  5. Do something to help others. Altruism, which is believing in or showing sincere concern for the wellbeing of others, can be beneficial for all of those involved. Volunteer at a local shelter or check in regularly with a neighbor who lives alone.
  6. Find value in your work. Whether it is your career, your hobbies or volunteer opportunities, it can help to look at your strengths in your everyday activities.

So, if you want to improve your sense of happiness as well as your sense of wellbeing, there are many things you can do. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and make plans to get together. Get involved in altruistic activities like a religious group or volunteer group. Or literally stop to smell the roses and enjoy the simple pleasures of life every day.

Nancy Kupka PhD, RN is an experienced caregiver who has seen the difference that happiness can make in the lives of seniors. Nancy currently serves as Manager of Clinical Programs and Quality for Walgreens, where you can find affordable home health products like lift chairs to aid in senior mobility and independence.
Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

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