Health

The science of joy

Achieve happiness and good health with these tips for your soul

Soul

Celebrate the wrinkles
Say a prayer
Write it down
Nurture your relationships

Celebrate the wrinkles

Extra candles on the birthday cake needn’t hurt. Turns out that feeling good about aging will actually help you live longer. Researchers from Yale and Miami Universities found that people who felt good about getting older lived seven and a half years longer than those who viewed getting older as a fate worse than, well, death. Previous studies found people in the old-is-good group much more likely to accept life-prolonging medical treatment and less stressed about aging, which in turn improved their cardiovascular health.

Grin and try it Hang out with an elderly friend or relative.

Say a prayer

If attending a religious service is part of your spiritual life, do it weekly. A study from the Human Population Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., found that women who attended religious services weekly, year after year, were more likely to improve health habits and maintain good ones, improve and maintain their mental health and have stable marriages (all of which are associated with long life) than those who attended irregularly or not at all. Why does it work? Forging solid social supports in a community helps you cope with everything the material world throws your way.

Grin and try it Look up “religious organizations” on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages, find a place of worship that you like and get involved. Feeling a bit shy about going to a new place? Invite a friend or relative to come along.

Write it down

If you’re struggling with some kind of trauma in your life, one of the best ways to deal with it is to write about it—with a positive spin. When University of Texas researchers asked college students to write about a stressful event, they found that those who used a lot of positive-emotion words slashed their number of health centre visits. Seems writing or talking about emotional topics helps the immune system because you’re gradually coping.

Grin and try it Buy a journal or tape recorder and vent your way to health.

Nurture your relationships

Simple but true: being in a loving relationship, whether it’s with a spouse or a friend, does a whole lot for your body and soul. Two recent studies found that people who were lonely had higher blood pressure, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, a reduced immune system response and slept more poorly than people who were not lonely. Other research also shows that people in happy marriages manage diabetes and high blood pressure more effectively, have better recoveries from congestive heart failure and visit the doctor less often than people in troubled marriages, probably because of emotional and physical support from their partner.

Grin and try it Talk to a counsellor about ditching a toxic relationship. Nurture good relationships: call your sister, go for a walk with your partner or send a goofy e-card to a new friend.