Optimism, part deux: the value of positive outlook in improving your quality of life.
• Will yourself to be as optimistic as possible—Then pretty soon the process will start occurring naturally. Scientific studies have shown time and again that optimists live longer, suffer lower rates of cardiovascular and other diseases, laugh more and generally enjoy life more than people who describe themselves as pessimists. You’ll also find yourself in more and better relationships of all types. The only price you’ll pay—more smiles. What a bargain!
• As you age, realize that successful (happy) aging is more a matter of attitude than it is sound physical health—Contrary to traditional belief, happiness among senior citizens depends less on their state of physical health than it does on their state of mind. Many of our happiest over-80 citizens suffer various infirmities and pronounced physical handicaps, while others who outwardly appear to be models of physical health among the elder populace are seriously depressed.
The impact of friends; frequent interaction with family members; mental and physical activities they can enjoy, take part in and feel a sense of accomplishment from; and the presence of pets they can love and care for contribute far more to a senior’s score on the happiness scoreboard than the absence of disease or the joint fluidity of a 40-year-old. In fact, in some cases, octogenarians are experiencing more frequent acts of intimacy than they did at half their current age. With the right attitude, for some people, life really does begin after 80!
• Don’t hesitate to take steps that will make your life more fulfilling—“It requires some effort to achieve a happy outlook on life, and most people don’t make it,” says author Gregg Easterbrook. “Lethargy holds many people back from doing the things that lead to happiness. Unhappiness is a default condition because it takes less effort to be unhappy than to be happy.”
Easterbrook continues, “If you are looking for something to complain about, you are absolutely certain to find it. It requires some effort to achieve a happy outlook on life, and most people won’t make this effort. Most people take the path of least resistance. Far too many people today simply won’t take the steps to make their life happier.”
In addition, happiness does not come via prescription drugs, although 10 percent of women 18 and older and 4 percent of men take antidepressants, according to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Antidepressants benefit those with mental illness but are no happiness guarantee, researchers say.
Happiness appears to be 50 percent genetic. What you do with the other half of the challenge depends largely on determination, psychologists agree. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Get a jump start on increasing your own happiness quotient by making lists of the things for which you’re grateful in your life, practice random acts of kindness every day (even when no one else is watching), forgive your enemies, notice life’s small pleasures, take care of your health, practice positive thinking, and invest time and energy in friendships and family. Bear in mind that the happiest people work daily to develop and maintain strong friendships.
In conclusion, just how important is happiness? Well, let’s just say that happiness is so important that the freedom to pursue it is written into the preamble of our Declaration of Independence.
And on that ultimate patriotic note, I sincerely wish you a long and happy life of supreme quality!