Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being

Acting happy, coaxes one’s brain toward positive emotions

“Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it,” says Arthur C. Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, in a column in the New York Times. In the article, from 2015, he argues that “acting grateful can actually make you grateful” and uses science to prove it.

A 2003 study compared the well-being of participants who kept a weekly list of things they were grateful for to participants who kept a list of things that irritated them or neutral things. The researchers showed that the gratitude-focused participants exhibited increased well-being and they concluded that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

The participants didn’t begin the study any more grateful or ungrateful than anyone else, and they didn’t change their lives during the study so that they’d have more to be thankful for. They just turned their outlook to one of gratitude, and they were happier for it.

How does gratitude do this? One way is by stimulating two important regions in our brains: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which plays a significant role in the brain’s reward system that produces feelings of pleasure.

One 1993 study revealed another way to boost happiness even when you’re not feeling happy. Researchers found that both voluntary and involuntary smiling had the same effect on brain activity. You can convince your brain and body that you’re happy even when you’re not just by forcing yourself to smile. “Acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions,” explains Brooks. In other words, “fake it ‘til you make it” works.

In his column, Brooks suggests adopting three strategies to harness the positive health effects of gratitude. One, practice “interior gratitude.” Keep a daily or weekly list of the things you are grateful for. For example, I might write: I am grateful that I have a job that I love and that through my job as a therapist in Santa Monica I get to help people. Two, practice “exterior gratitude.” Write thank-you notes and put your gratitude to others on paper. For example, you could write a thank-you email to your best friend for supporting you through a bad breakup. And three, “be grateful for useless things.” In other words, express thanks for the everyday stuff you usually overlook such as fresh fruit and air-conditioning.

Are you worried that writing a spontaneous thank-you note to a friend will make them feel awkward? Or that it won’t mean much to them?

GRATITUDE

Science says you’re wrong.

A study published in Psychological Science in June 2018 reveals that people often miscalculate how a heartfelt thank-you note will be received. Researchers asked a group of 100 participants to write letters of gratitude to someone whom they were thankful for, like a friend or teacher. While these weren’t just quick “thanks for my Christmas present” notes, researcher Dr. Amit Kumar observed that the gratitude letters took less than five minutes to write.

Participants were then asked to rate how surprised, happy, and awkward they predicted the participant would feel. And finally, the recipients were asked to assess how the letter actually made them feel. It turns out the note writers greatly overestimated how awkward recipients would feel and how insincere the notes would seem, and they greatly underestimated the positive effects they would have. New York Times science reporter Heather Murphy writes, “After receiving thank-you notes and filling out questionnaires about how it felt to get them, many said they were ‘ecstatic,’ scoring the happiness rating at 4 of 5. The senders typically guessed they’d evoke a 3.”

If expressing gratitude even when nothing especially gratefulness-triggering is going on can increase your well-being and help regulate stress, and even a small amount of effort to express gratitude can have a meaningful effect on the recipient of your thanks, why not make gratitude a part of your daily life? Do as the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman recommends in his book Authentic Happiness and write daily letters of gratitude. Spend five minutes every morning or evening writing a gratitude email to a loved one. Science says you’ll feel awkward, and science says to do it anyway.

Jul 30, 2018      Andrea Brandt Ph.D. M.F.T.       Mindful Anger
Advertisements


2 Comments

4 Scientifically Proven Tips to Improve Your Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy in their lives, but it isn’t always easy. You may take drastic measures — try to buy new things, meet new people, uproot your life, but nothing changes. But being happy starts in your mind, so you have to give your mind what it needs first. If you’re looking for some foolproof ways to improve your life, here are 4 scientific tips on how to boost happiness, starting in your brain.

EXPERIENCE GRATITUDE
Studies have shown time and time again that expressing gratitude and humility for the good qualities in your life can make you happier on a chemical level. Gratitude stimulates the brain to create dopamine and feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. By expressing your gratitude to people you are grateful for, you in turn create a positive social relationship with those around you that keeps on giving.

EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS
Whether it’s through verbal language, writing or some other form of art, expressing what your innermost feelings are can have an instant effect on your life outlook. Often, our deepest emotions can get blurred while they’re still whirling around in our minds. By putting your emotions out there, you can take a step back — look, read or watch — and begin to understand your feelings for what they really are. This allows your brain the space to analyze and process emotions, which often reveals that they are not as intense or dire as you may have previously thought. Expressing your emotions allows you to put everything into perspective.

GIVE UP PERFECTION
While worrying about your problems can seem productive — at least it’s on your mind, right? — it gets you nowhere in the long run. Instead of struggling and stressing over making the best decision possible, you are far better off making any decision rather than worrying over it. Making a decision moves you forward. Worrying does not. Once you’ve made a decision, your brain will immediately feel more at peace. While making a bad decision is not encouraged, making one that is good enough but not ideal is probably the best way to go in terms of reducing stress and increasing happiness. A good enough decision activates a different part of the brain than an ideally perfect decision. The former activates the prefrontal cortex, which controls logic, while the latter activates more emotional portions of the brain which can make us feel less in control. An active decision also increases dopamine production, meaning it actually makes you happier, regardless of what you have decided.

ENJOY HUMAN TOUCH
Human contact is a powerful force in the body. It can boost the immune system, increase trust, improve learning and — you guessed it — boost your happiness and wellbeing. Human touch like a hug releases oxytocin in the brain, which actually works to facilitate intimacy and social bonding. Feeling like you have a network of trustworthy people around you can do wonders to improve your happiness. Go for long hugs, if appropriate. Those stimulate the most oxytocin production.

Being happy starts in the brain. By being true to yourself and others, you can live a happier life, accompanied by other great side effects — like stronger social connections, stronger feelings of self-worth and a more positive outlook on life. Of course, listening to good music or drawing a hot bath are great mood quick fixes, too, but true happiness starts at your core.

 source: www.care2.com


5 Comments

Hang Out With Happy People — It Might Be Contagious

You can actually catch a good mood or a bad mood from your friends, according to a recent study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. But that shouldn’t stop you from hanging out with pals who are down in the dumps, say the study authors: Thankfully, the effect isn’t large enough to push you into depression.

The new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that happiness and sadness—as well as lifestyle and behavioral factors like smoking, drinking, obesity, fitness habits and even the ability to concentrate—can spread across social networks, both online and in real life. But while many previous studies have only looked at friendship data at one point in time, this is one of the few that measured social and mood changes over time.

This method was able to show how friends actually influenced each other, and helped rule out the possibility that similarities between friends exist simply because people tend to gravitate toward and hang out with others like themselves.The new research involved groups of junior-high and high-school students who took part in depression screenings and answered questions about their best friends, many of whom were also enrolled in the study. In total, 2,194 students were included in the analysis, which used a mathematical model to look for connections among friend networks.

Overall, kids whose friends suffered from bad moods were more likely to report bad moods themselves—and they were less likely to have improved when they were screened again six months to a year later. When people had more happy friends, on the other hand, their moods were more likely to improve over time.

Some symptoms related to depression—like helplessness, tiredness and loss of interest—also seemed to follow this pattern, which scientists call “social contagion.” But this isn’t something sneaky and insidious that people need to worry about, says lead author Robert Eyre, a doctoral student at the University of Warwick’s Center for Complexity Science. Rather, it’s likely just a “normal empathetic response that we’re all familiar with, and something we recognize by common sense,” he says.

In other words, when a friend is going through a rough patch, it makes sense that you’ll feel some of their pain, and it’s certainly not a reason to stay away. But the fact that these negative feelings do spread across networks does have important health implications, says Eyre.

“The good news from our work is that following the evidence-based advice for improving mood—like exercise, sleeping well and managing stress—can help your friends too,” he says.

The study also found that having friends who were clinically depressed did not increase participants’ risk of becoming depressed themselves. “Your friends do not put you at risk of illness,” says Eyre, “so a good course of action is simply to support them.” To boost both of your moods, he suggests doing things together that you both enjoy—and taking other friends along to further spread those good feelings, too.’

 

Amanda MacMillan / Health.com   Sep 22, 2017   TIME Health


1 Comment

Study Shows Why It’s Massively Important to Have a Good Attitude

Positive thinking may reduce your risk of this deadly disease

Could a grin on your face be your ticker’s saving grace? 

In a new study at Penn State University, scientists looked at more than 1,000 people with coronary heart disease over a 5-year period. Patients who reported having higher levels of positive emotions like determination, excitement, and enthusiasm were more likely to exercise, sleep better, and avoid smoking.

Not surprisingly, those three measures can all reduce your risk of heart disease, according to previous research.

Although the people in this study already had heart problems—and their positive attitudes helped them maintain better health behaviors—other research pegs happiness as a proven preventative tool. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that positive well-being was associated with nearly a one-third reduction of coronary artery disease.

The scientists aren’t exactly sure why people with better attitudes are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, but they have a few theories.

Happier people may be more motivated to carry out and stick to health routines, adjust health-related goals, or cope with the setbacks of having ticker trouble, says study author Nancy Sin, Ph.D.

The most encouraging part of the findings is that the people who had great outlooks weren’t necessarily that way from the start. Patients who increased their positive emotions as the study went on were more likely to keep up healthy behaviors.

Stress and depression tend to hog all the headlines when it comes to factors that influence our health. So we tend to overlook the huge impact that positive thinking can have, says Sin.

But as the study shows, you can always turn your attitude around. “Start with small changes in your life,” says Sin.

BY JADA GREEN October 14, 2015


Leave a comment

Fun Fact Friday

  • The phrase, “Happy wife, happy life,” is scientifically proven; husbands who have happy wives are more satisfied with their lives.

  • Applying vodka on your face cleanses the skin, tightens pores and can prevent acne breakouts.

 

  • You can have four to seven dreams in one night.

  • Boredom is the single largest contributor to the use of drugs and alcohol among teens.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


3 Comments

How To Deal With Negative Thoughts And Anxiety

People in the study were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences.

Accepting negative emotions is the best way to deal with them in the long-run, new research finds.

People who are more accepting of their darker moods have better psychological health.

Dr Iris Mauss, one author of the study, said:

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health.”

Psychologists are still not sure exactly why acceptance is so powerful, said Dr Mauss:

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention.
And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The results come from research on over 1,300 people.

Those who most strongly resisted negative emotions, or judged them excessively, were more stressed.

Over six months, the people who did best were those who let their dark moods run their course, with little judgement or criticism.

They had fewer symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

Dr Brett Ford, the study’s first author, said:

“It turns out that how we approaach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for our overall well-being.
People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully.”

The researchers ruled out being richer as a factor, Dr Mauss said:

“It’s easier to have an accepting attitude if you lead a pampered life, which is why we ruled out socio-economic status and major life stressors that could bias the results.”

People were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences, in one of three studies the researchers conducted.

In general, those who did not feel bad about feeling bad had the highest levels of well-being and psychological health.

Next, the researchers want to look at where the habitual acceptance of negative emotions comes from.

Dr Mauss said:

“By asking parents about their attitudes about their children’s emotions, we may be able to predict how their children feel about their emotions, and how that might affect their children’s mental health.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Ford et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog    AUGUST 19, 2017 


Leave a comment

Want To Be Happier? Hire A Housekeeper, Researchers Suggest

Many who have the means to buy themselves more free time don’t do so

For people who wish there were more hours in the day, spending a bit of money to get rid of onerous tasks would make them much happier, but researchers say very few actually make the investment.

A study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found buying time makes people happier than buying material things.

UBC psychology professor and study author Elizabeth Dunn said although the idea of being happier by having someone clean your home or do other unwanted chores seems obvious, the study found even small investments like shopping at a more expensive, but closer-to-home, grocery store makes a difference.

Protects from time stress

“Theoretically what we think is that buying time protects people from the negative effects of time stress in daily life,” she said. “When you’re rushing around, feeling pressed for time, that seems to take a bit of a toll on people’s day-to-day happiness.”

Researchers gave 60 people taking part in the study in Vancouver $40 to spend on two weekends. The first time they were told to use the money on any material item they wanted.

Dunn said people reported buying a nice bottle of wine, clothes and board games. Researchers then surveyed the group to determine their level of happiness following the purchase of the item.

On the second weekend, participants were tasked to use the money to save them time — such as taking a taxi instead of public transit, have someone mow their lawn, and in one case having a “neighbour boy” run errands.

Better than shopping

Dunn said they compared the group’s level of happiness following both instances of spending, and found people were much happier when they bought themselves more time.

Surprisingly, Dunn said only two per cent of the group reported that they would spend money on things that would give them more time.

“It’s not what comes to mind to people as a way to increase their happiness and the rates at which people are engaging in this type of expenditure are surprisingly low,” Dunn said.

That attitude wasn’t limited to the Vancouver participants.

The study also surveyed 850 millionaires in the Netherlands and found almost half of them don’t spend money to outsource their most disliked tasks.

Many could but don’t outsource

Buying more time requires the means to do so, Dunn said. But a survey of 6,000 people in Canada, the U.S. and Europe showed those who have a bit of discretionary income would benefit from spending it on getting rid of the chores they dread.

The minority of people who do buy time-saving tools typically spend $80 to $100 a month, Dunn said, adding the study shows even $40 can make a difference.

‘Even if you don’t have tonnes of money, using money to get rid of your disliked tasks may be a pretty smart decision,’
– Elizabeth Dunn, UBC psychology professor

“People who don’t feel like they’re rolling in dough may feel like that’s a frivolous way to spend money, but what our research is showing is that even if you don’t have tonnes of money, using money to get rid of your disliked tasks may be a pretty smart decision,” she said.

Guilt factor

The reason behind people’s aversion to treating themselves to time savers is unclear. Dunn said her team’s best guess is that people feel guilty spending money on things they could do themselves.

“People may feel like I can do this so I should do this, and so I hope our research helps to break through that perhaps misguided cultural assumption,” she said.

Dunn said her team intends to do a follow-up study to better understand why people don’t spend money to buy time, and see how age, gender, ethnicity or other characteristics play into the reasoning.

source: www.cbc.ca     The Canadian Press    Jul 25, 2017