Science Shows How Happiness Can Improve Our Health…
5 Ways Happiness Affects Your Cellular Structure
Marianna Pochelli | Prevent Disease
There is an irrefutable argument in favor of happiness: Happiness and good health go hand-in-hand and scientific studies have been finding that happiness can make our hearts healthier, our immune systems stronger, and our lives longer through enhancements of our cellular structure.
Dr Derek Cox, Director of Public Health at Dumfries and Galloway NHS, suspects that for decades health professionals have been missing a big trick in improving the health of the nation.
“We’ve spent years saying that giving up smoking could be the single most important thing that we could do for the health of the nation.
“And yet there is mounting evidence that happiness might be at least as powerful a predictor, if not a more powerful predictor than some of the other lifestyle factors that we talk about in terms of cigarette smoking, diet, physical activity and those kind of things.”
The science of happiness is increasingly suggesting a link between happiness and health.
1) Protects Our Heart
A 2005 paper found that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. In the study, participants rated their happiness over 30 times in one day and then again three years later. The initially happiest participants had a lower heart rate on follow-up (about six beats slower per minute), and the happiest participants during the follow-up had better blood pressure.
In a 2010 study, researchers invited nearly 2,000 Canadians into the lab to talk about their anger and stress at work. Observers rated them on a scale of one to five for the extent to which they expressed positive emotions like joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and contentment. Ten years later, the researchers checked in with the participants to see how they were doing–and it turned out that the happier ones were less likely to have developed coronary heart disease. In fact, for each one-point increase in positive emotions they had expressed, their heart disease risk was 22 percent lower.
2) Enhances Our Immune System
Happy people, as compared with less happy people, tend to have greater immune system functioning, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and report greater marriage and job satisfaction. It is therefore valuable to develop a deeper understanding of the positive affect by investigating its biological basis. Several studies have begun to investigate potential biological markers of positive affect.
In a 2003 experiment, 350 adults volunteered to get exposed to the common cold (don’t worry, they were well-compensated). Before exposure, researchers called them six times in two weeks and asked how much they had experienced nine positive emotions–such as feeling energetic, pleased, and calm–that day. After five days in quarantine, the participants with the most positive emotions were less likely to have developed a cold.
Some of the same researchers wanted to investigate why happier people might be less susceptible to sickness, so in a 2006 study they gave 81 graduate students the hepatitis B vaccine. After receiving the first two doses, participants rated themselves on those same nine positive emotions. The ones who were high in positive emotion were nearly twice as likely to have a high antibody response to the vaccine–a sign of a robust immune system. Instead of merely affecting symptoms, happiness seemed to be literally working on a cellular level.
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3) Combats Cortisol and Stress
To protect the brain from stress, happiness releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which has a protective and also reparative element to memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That’s why we often feel so at ease and things are clear after moments of stress and eventually happy.
Happiness also seems to carry benefits even when stress is inevitable. In a 2009 study, some diabolically cruel researchers decided to stress out psychology students and see how they reacted. The students were led to a soundproof chamber, where they first answered questions indicating whether they generally felt 10 feelings like enthusiasm or READ MORE: http://preventdisease.com/news/16/032516_5-Ways-Happiness-Affects-Cellular-Structure.shtml