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Happiness and Your Health

By Beth Eberhardt

Do we even know what Happiness is?

We all know when we’re happy and when we’re not. But ask a roomful of people what makes them happy and you’re likely to get a wide range of responses, from “watching the sunset” or “spending time with good friends” to “finding a great shoe sale” or “winning the office football pool.” Maybe we don’t really know what happiness is, even though our own constitution states that we have the right to pursue happiness.

I’m sure that you have all heard the commercials that claim that you and your children will be happy if they order a certain type of meal at a certain fast food restaurant. You may have also heard that purchasing a certain brand of car insurance will make you happy. Well, if that is the case then why is clinical depression up between 3 to 10 times what it was for our grandparents? The truth is science tells us that only 10% of happiness comes from external circumstances.

The United States is one of the richest countries in the world so you would think that we would be one of the happiest. We define success in this country as money and power, so we are working longer, and harder, trying to do everything we can to keep our jobs, raise our families and lead the ”Good Life”. We think we will be happier if we only have a little more money…and a little more money…and a little more money. Well the reality is that once people’s basic material needs are met, additional money does not have an impact on happiness. According to the latest Gallop poll on happiness, Paraguay ranks number 1, with Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua close behind. The U.S. is ranked 19th.

Denmark has earned the top spot on the European Commission’s “Eurobarometer” for well-being and happiness every year since 1973. And when the United Nations went on the hunt for the happiest nation in the world, it ranked Denmark No. 1.

So what makes Danes more satisfied with their lives? Sure, things like life expectancy, gross domestic product and a low-corruption rate help. But the overall level of happiness in Denmark has more to do with the generosity that’s common among citizens, their freedom to make life choices and a strong social support system, according to the U.N. World Happiness Report.

Researchers say that when people focus on experiences, they feel a greater sense of vitality or “being alive” during the experience and afterward. It also brings you mentally closer to the people around you, which may contribute to your happiness boost.

Many people find happiness in assisting others. The joy of helping others starts early. A 2012 study found children prefer to give than to receive. Researchers gave two groups of toddler’s snacks and then asked one group to give their treats away. The children who gave away their treats showed greater happiness about sharing their possessions, suggesting that the act of personal sacrifice was emotionally rewarding, researchers say. The sacrifice doesn’t have to be big — previous research has found that donating or spending as little as $5 on others has emotional benefits.

So why is happiness so important?

Research tells us that the happier you are, the more your body generates antibodies. In fact it generates up to 50% more antibodies when you are happy. Happier people are more likely to retain relationships. A growing body of research demonstrates that as we become happier, we become better people. We are healthier emotionally and physically when we are happy. We are more creative, energetic, compassionate and successful. We take better care of ourselves in general, start naturally caring more about others, and treat them better. According to http://www.fantasticfarms.com, the pursuit of happiness is the natural human pathway to reforming our culture into one with any prospect of becoming sustainable and enduring. Why? Because, the real challenge in finding happiness is in making changes to our daily routines, our standard ways of thinking and behaving.

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