Happiness is key to a healthy life, research shows

Staying happy is key to having a healthy life (Getty) People who are happy lead healthier lives than those who are glum, new research reveals.

The study shows that having a happy outlook on life can have a very real impact on a person’s physical well-being.

New research published in the journal Psychological Science shows that tactics aimed at boosting someone’s well being have positive effects on self-reported physical health.

Over six months, US psychologists examined how improving the subjective well-being of people who were not in hospital or having medical treatment affected their physical health.

A group of 155 adults between the ages of 25 and 75 were either randomly assigned to a 12-week positive psychological intervention or were left alone as a control group. The intervention addressed three different sources of happiness: the ‘core self’, the ‘experiential self’ and the ‘social self’.

The intervention addressed three different sources of happiness: the ‘core self’, the ‘experiential self’ and the ‘social self. (Getty Images) The first three weeks of the program focused on the core self, helping individuals identify their personal values, strengths, and goals. The next five weeks focused on the experiential self, covering emotion regulation and mindfulness. This phase also gave participants tools to identify maladaptive patterns of thinking. The final four weeks of the program addressed the social self, teaching techniques to cultivate gratitude, foster positive social interactions, and engage more with their community.

The program consisted of weekly modules either led by a trained clinician or completed individually using a customised online platform. None of the modules focused on promoting physical health or health behaviors, such as sleep, exercise, or diet.

Each module featured an hour-long lesson with information and exercises; a weekly writing assignment, such as journaling; and an active behavioral component, such as guided meditation.

When the program finished, participants were given individual evaluations and recommendations of which modules would be most effective at 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.

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 three months after it ended.

Study co-author Professor Kostadin Kushlev, of Georgetown University in Washington DC, said: ‘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...