Happiness: The Key to a Long Life

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This time of year there is a lot of talk about being grateful and spreading joy. No matter what holiday your family celebrates, it is almost always preceded by the word “Happy” when wishing another a Happy Holiday. We all know that we feel better when we have some degree of happiness in our lives.

What Does the Doctor Prescribe? Happiness.

Dr. Vivek Malek, the U.S. Surgeon General, affirms that happiness is an essential part of one’s health and well-being. He teaches us through years of research and studies that happiness is one of the main ways to live a long and healthy life and prevent disease.

The Surgeon General asserts that happiness can be increased in a person’s life through four steps: practicing gratitude, meditation, physical activity and connection to others. In his speeches, TED talks and interviews, he stresses the importance of practicing the above approaches to empower individuals to make changes and develop a greater sense of well-being.

I think about my 91 year old father, Jack, who has experienced much joy and many trials throughout his lengthy life. Somehow, he remains healthy and positive and people are drawn to him for his personality and perspective. Even when he moved into an assisted living facility where his norms of freedom were challenged, he continued to bounce back and eventually thrive. Why? I believe he is a successful case study for Dr. Malek’s approaches to life.

  • He lives gratefully. He is fully aware of what he has each day and takes nothing for granted. A good meal, a night out with friends or family, a beautiful day. Large or small, he recognizes his blessings.

  • Though he would never claim to “meditate” he maintains a thoughtful lifestyle toward himself and others. He thinks about the big picture, takes time to listen to his body when he needs rest and spends time alone seeking activities that revive him.

  • My father uses a walker now, but he continues to exercise everyday to keep fit. He swims, does yoga and attends exercise class. Physical activity is a must-do for him, and even if great grandchildren (some of his favorite people in the world) come to visit him during his exercise time—they have to wait.

  • He has always been and continues to be socially connected. He is often referred to as Mr. Mayor at the retirement community. He has many friends and family that he visits with regularly. He makes and effort to reach out to others and build connections wherever he goes. In addition, he has had the support that he has needed from others when he has gone through trials. Those that cared for him during difficult times lifted him up and sustained him and continue to do so today.

  • When my father moved to the assisted living facility years ago after my mother passed away, he could have chosen to live in a state of loneliness, loss and unhappiness. Instead, his mindset was to choose happiness by living gratefully and thoughtfully within a community. He bloomed where he was planted.

    ‘If we can imagine what it be like to prioritize emotional well-being…I think we can start to see that kind of society, where emotional well-being is something that we value, that we proactively support and cultivate — that kind of society is one that will allow us to be stronger, more empowered and ultimately healthier.” – Dr. Vivel Murthy.

    What steps can you take to cultivate more happiness in your life? How can you actively integrate gratitude and connectedness into your life? Imagine what an amazing 2016 it could be for you and those around you!

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