The More You Know

Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Live Long

People with a sense of overall happiness and well-being live longer.

If you’re happy and you know it, your lifespan will surely show it. Happy people are not only having more fun, they’re living longer, according to a comprehensive review of 160 studies.1

The analysis included studies that examined emotional health and longevity and a sense of subjective well-being, or life satisfaction. The results are compelling: individuals who are positive, optimistic, and maintain low stress levels and healthy relationships outlive those who are negative, pessimistic, anxious, stressed, depressed, and generally unhappy. In fact, the correlation is so strong that some data indicates that a high sense of subjective well-being can add four to 10 years to life compared with a low sense of subjective well-being.

Many of the studies indicated that moods and emotions are associated with physiological responses and health outcomes. When moods are tracked over time, they are often associated with changes in immune and cardiovascular measures.

The implications of the research are staggering, and they shine a spotlight on the importance of subjective well-being in society. Happiness and well-being are not only desirable but also necessary and beneficial.

The takeaway message? Stay positive, find joy in daily life, stay connected to community, and keep stress levels to a minimum. Not only will you enjoy life more, you’ll likely live longer.

Reference

Diener E, Chan, MY. Happy people live longer: subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 2011;3(1):1‑43.

How to Live in the Present Moment

Mindfulness is a state of intention and attention to the present.

The only moment you truly have is this one. The past is done, and the future hasn’t happened yet. If you’re like most people, however, the present moment is constantly slipping away from you. We squander away the precious present as we ruminate over past transgressions and future worries. At work we fantasize about vacation; on vacation we worry about work. It’s a vicious cycle.

So, how do you break the cycle and relax into the present moment? It takes practice. Here are some simple suggestions for cultivating an attitude of mindfulness and finding peace in the present.

Meditate. It’s no secret that meditation is the silver bullet for achieving mindfulness—but that doesn’t make it easy. Meditation, also called imagery or visualization, refers to full concentration of the mind. Meditation generally involves techniques designed to control and discipline the mind so that it is not overrun with useless thoughts, fantasies, and fears. By training the mind, we can slow down and relax into the present moment.

Single-task. Multitasking is the enemy of mindfulness. As Publius Syrus, a Roman slave in the first century B.C., said, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” Multitasking has actually been shown to be inefficient and to increase anxiety. If you want to stay focused on the present moment, stick with one task at a time. You’ll feel more relaxed and able to focus on the task at hand.

Take a sacred pause. Embrace the idea of a sacred pause. Our society rewards speed and efficiency, but that fast pace increases anxiety and prevents us from relaxing into the present moment. Instead find ways to incorporate the sacred pause into your day. When walking to your car, stop and notice the flowers blooming. Before answering the telephone, take three deep breaths.

Try something new. Nothing captures your attention like doing something out of the ordinary. If you’ve ever tried to learn something new, you’ll recall how singularly focused you were on the task. Learn to surf, try your hand at pottery, or take up the tango. Travel to a new place or learn a new language.

Lose track of time. Psychologists refer to a state of total absorption as “flow.” When you’re in the flow, you are so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Incorporate activities into your daily life that promote a sense of flow. Some people experience flow while running, playing the piano, or painting. Find your flow and go with it.

Goal Setting

Set good goals and see them through.

A goal is something we want to achieve. Setting goals is a powerful way to implement change in our lives. Without goals we have no vision for where we are going. With them we have a road map and a visible destination.

But setting goals isn’t as simple as stating a desire. There is an art to goal setting. Master the art, and you’re more likely to achieve your goals.

To experience success, set goals

that are SMART: specific, measurable,

attainable, realistic, and timely:

  • Specific. A goal needs to be specific, otherwise how will you know what you are working toward or when you have attained it? Resist the temptation to set vague goals such as I want to lose weight or I want to get in shape or I want to expand my business. Instead get specific: I will lose 5 pounds by March 1 or I will be able to run 3 miles without stopping by April 1 or I will have three new clients by the end of the year.
  • Measurable. A goal needs to be measurable so that you can track your progress and document your success. You can measure weight loss by tracking your weight, your clothing size, or inches lost. Similarly, you can measure financial goals by setting a target number for savings. In contrast, a goal such as I want to expand my business is neither specific nor measurable. How will you measure growth? Set a benchmark that you can track.
  • Attainable. Set yourself up for success by setting attainable goals. I want to lose 20 pounds in a week is not an attainable goal. A goal like that is a guarantee of failure, which leads to misery. Instead set a goal to lose 1 pound a week for 20 weeks. That is an attainable goal that will leave you feeling successful.
  • Realistic. It’s fun to dream, but it’s also important to be realistic. If your goal is to circumnavigate the world by sailboat but you have a full-time job and small children at home, you’re probably not on track to work toward this goal right now. File it away for a later date and instead focus on goals that are realistic for your current life. You may dream of being an Olympic skier, but very few make the cut. Do you have the time and the money to devote to the pursuit? If not, set a more realistic goal such as winning your age group in a local ski race.
  • Timely. To be useful, goals need to have a time frame. Without a time frame, we have no motivation to take action. Having a specific time frame will spur you into action and help you monitor your progress. If you’ve been saying I want to write a book for years, it’s time to set a finish date and start working toward it.

So, get busy! Set smart goals and have fun working toward them. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel will be worth it!