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Have you ever thought about what is happiness? Happiness is something that makes us feel good, lends a glow to our skin, and makes us feel physically active to perform tasks. On the contrary, ever noticed what happens when we are under stress or in an unhappy state? We end up getting dark circles underneath our eyes, our skin goes dull, and we feel weak to even lift our finger. Well, this displays the link between happiness and wellness.
How to find happiness?
Good health and happiness in life may be linked but are two independent entities. A growing body of research reveals that a happy outlook toward life can have a good impact on our physical well-being. So, how to find happiness? Well, all we need to do is do things that make us happy.
According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, both online and in-person psychological interventions — tactics specifically designed to boost subjective well-being — have positive effects on self-reported physical health. The online and in-person interventions were equally effective.
Kostadin Kushlev, a professor in Georgetown University’s Department of Psychology and one of the authors of the paper says, “Though prior studies have shown that happier people tend to have better cardiovascular health and immune-system responses than their less happy counterparts. Our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health.”
Intervention for Healthy Outcomes
For a period of six months, Kushlev and his colleagues at the University of Virginia and the University of British Columbia examined how to improve the subjective wellbeing of people who were not hospitalized or undergoing medical treatment affected their physical health.
They examined a group of 155 adults between the ages of 25 and 75. They assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or a 12-week positive psychological intervention that addressed three different sources of happiness: the “Core Self,” the “Experiential Self,” and the “Social Self.”
The first three weeks of the program focused on the Core Self and helped individuals to identify their personal values, strengths, and goals. The next five weeks focused on the Experiential Self, and covered emotion regulation and mindfulness.
This phase provided the participants with tools to identify maladaptive patterns of thinking. The final four weeks of the program addressed the Social Self and taught techniques to cultivate gratitude, foster positive social interactions, and engage more with their community.
The program was called “Enduring Happiness and Continued Self-Enhancement (ENHANCE).” It consisted of weekly modules that were either led by a trained clinician or had to be completed individually using a customized online platform. None of these modules focused on promoting physical health or health behaviours like sleep, exercise, or diet.
Each module featured an hour-long lesson with information and exercises. It included a weekly writing assignment, such as journaling; and an active behavioural component like a guided meditation.
Kushlev stated, “All of the activities were evidence-based tools to increase subjective well-being.” On the concluding day of the program, the participants were given individual evaluations and recommendations of which modules will help in improving their happiness in the long term.
Three months after the conclusion of the trial, researchers followed up with the participants to evaluate their well-being and health.
What makes people happy?
The participants who received the intervention reported “increasing levels of subjective well-being over the course of the 12-week program. They also reported fewer sick days than control participants throughout the program and 3 months after it ended.”
The online mode of administering the program proved to be as effective as the in-person mode led by trained facilitators. Kushlev said, “These results speak to the potential of such interventions to be scaled in ways that reach more people in environments such as college campuses to help increase happiness and promote better mental health among students.”
Validation Helps People Stay Positive
Telling a distressed friend or family member something as simple as ‘I understand why you feel that way’ can go a long way toward helping loved ones feel better, new research suggests. The power of validation helps people stay positive.
Materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Kostadin Kushlev, Samantha J. Heintzelman, Lesley D. Lutes, Derrick Wirtz, Jacqueline M. Kanippayoor, Damian Leitner, Ed Diener. Does Happiness Improve Health? Evidence From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychological Science, 2020; 31 (7): 807 DOI: 10.1177/0956797620919673
Association for Psychological Science. “Health and happiness depend on each other.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200722170142.htm>.
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