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Happiness and Your Health

Happiness and Your Health
Find a happier and healthier you with a few simple strategies.

It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and lose sight of what makes you happy. Really happy. But making sure your happiness meter is giving optimal readings can provide many important health benefits.

What makes people happy?
Jump ahead to the quiz.
Happy people have younger hearts, younger arteries, and a younger RealAge. Happy people recover more quickly from surgery, cope better with pain, have lower blood pressure, and have longer life expectancy than unhappy people.

Studies also suggest that happy people may have stronger immune systems—they're less likely to get colds and flu viruses. And when they do, their symptoms tend to be mild.

Not surprisingly, happy people are better at looking after their health, too. When people's happiness levels improve, so do their health behaviors. They exercise more, wear sunscreen, and go for regular checkups.

How to get there
So everyone wants to be happy, and the benefits are clearly plentiful. But researchers have discovered that people aren't always great at predicting what will make them happy. If it's long-term happiness you're after, you may need to learn a few new tricks. Take the time to read this Article on the latest happiness research and find out whether you're doing all you can for a healthier, younger, happier you.

What is happiness?
We all know when we're happy and when we're not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you're likely to get a wide range of responses, from "watching the sunset" or "spending time with good friends" to "finding a great shoe sale" or "winning the office football pool."

Defining happiness is no simple feat.

In an effort to help narrow the definition, researchers have devised a series of questionnaires to measure life satisfaction, positive mood, and subjective well-being. Some scientists are even beginning to use brain imaging to better understand the physiology of happiness. And economists have jumped on the happiness bandwagon, too, hoping to calculate the value of happiness within a sociopolitical context.

So what have they discovered? What makes for a happy life?

It's only partly your genes
Although your level of happiness is not entirely predetermined by your genes, genes do play a part, just as they play a part in your general health. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40% to 50% of a person's capacity for happiness may be genetically predetermined. And although that means some lucky people may start off with a greater propensity for happiness, it's no guarantee they'll lead a charmed life. Fortunately, evidence suggests that even the gloomiest of us can learn to be happier.
Getting older really gets a bad rap. It turns out you’ll have a lot to smile about.

That’s because you’ll actually be happier, despite gray hairs or wrinkles. A three-decades-long survey confirms it: Your odds of scoring well on a happiness scale increase about 5 percent every decade.

With Age Comes . . .
There’s one major advantage to getting older (at least for most of us!), and that’s maturity. Researchers suspect that it’s maturity that enriched people’s lives and boosted their happy factor in a recent study -- even when faced with health concerns or lost relationships.