Health

The science of joy

12 ways to put a smile on your face

Body

Eat candy for long life
Plan to laugh
Go green
Make a joyful noise

Eat candy for long life

Yep, you read that correctly. A Harvard study found that former students who ate candy one to three times a month lived almost a year longer than those who didn’t eat any candy at all.

Researchers speculate that the candy consumption probably included chocolate containing stress-busting antioxidants and cacao, which may check harmful LDL-cholesterol levels and boost immune function.

Grin and try it Treat yourself to a square of good-quality dark chocolate or a handful of chocolate-covered raisins.

Plan to laugh

It’s a no-brainer that laughter is good for you—it zaps stress hormones and gives your immune system a lift. But a new study shows that just anticipating laughter helps your health in the same way. University of California researchers tested the mood of people who had been told they would watch a funny video in a few days and found that their ratings for depression, fatigue and tension dropped significantly.

Grin and try it Tape your favourite sitcom or book season tickets to your local comedy troupe.

Go green

Put down that barbell and pick up a shovel. A British program called Green Gym found that an hour of nature-conservation activities, such as improving park footpaths or working on community gardens, burned almost a third more calories than an hour of step aerobics and improved cardiovascular health. Other studies find that regular contact with Mother Nature (whether volunteering or not) lowers stress and blood-pressure levels as well as the likelihood of getting sick.

Grin and try it Get involved in community gardening projects. Willing to share your yard with an apartment dweller? See if your community has programs like Vancouver’s Neighbourgarden (604 879-4562 or www.cityfarmer.org/neighborgardens.html).

Make a joyful noise

The U.S. Music Making and Wellness Project found that when older people learned to play an instrument, their levels of human growth hormone—linked to increased energy levels, sexual function and muscle mass—skyrocketed by 92 per cent. No time for rock stardom? Just humming a tune can help your health, too. More exhalations amplify sinus ventilation and chop your risk of sinus infections.

Grin and try it Sign up for music lessons or just drum on the kitchen counter with your kids. (Group drumming has also been shown to lower stress-hormone levels and decrease anxiety.)