Peak BrainHappiness Training Improves Long-Term Health—
The Important Missing Links are Found
Can practicing Peak BrainHappiness Training improve your long-term health? Odds are, it can. The evidence is now considerably more convincing, due to two key findings.
The study was awarded a Citation by the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, when it was presented at their 2011 Meeting.
157 of 160 Studies Link Current Happiness to Future Health
The Surgeon General Sees the Connection
The authoritative American Medical Association Wire recently (12/28/15) ran an important story which you may not have seen due to the holiday. Titled "The Simple Way to Boost Your Health You May Have Overlooked", it clearly stated that there is a link between present-day happiness and future health, echoing the thoughts and research of many positive psychologists over the past few years. The article is particularly noteworthy because it is based on the conclusions of none other than the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and quotes his TEDMED presentation quite substantially throughout.
Dr. Murthy said he has traveled to various communities throughout the country and has witnessed the unexpected benefits happiness can have on public health.
“Happiness affects us on a biological level. Happy people have lower levels of cortisol, a key stress hormone,” he said during a presentation at TEDMED 2015. Happy people “have more favorable heart rates and blood pressure levels. They have strong immune systems … and lower levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein that is linked to coronary heart disease. It turns out that even when you control for smoking, physical activity and other health behaviors, happy people live longer. There’s something about happiness that seems to be protective.”
“Now you may ask yourself, ‘Does happiness really lead to better health? Isn’t it the other way around—doesn’t happiness result from good health and favorable circumstance?’” Dr. Murthy said, noting that people often think their happiness hinges upon contingencies, such as losing 15 more pounds, getting a better job or earning more money.
However, “the truth is that while circumstances can and do impact our short-term happiness, our long-term happiness is far more driven by how we process life events than by the events themselves,” he said.
An Erroneous Contrary View
Unfortunately, almost at the same time, the British Journal Lancet published a very large epidemiological study by Bette Liu and colleagues claiming exactly the opposite--that happiness did not affect future death rates. This was reported on CBS Sunday Morning and elsewhere. The study contained a number of methodological errors and poor assumptions, and was soon called into question by an OpEd piece in the LA Times, authored by Dr. Diener and his colleagues. I spotted one of the major problems that they referred to and wrote to the author. It seems that those British women who were unhappiest--those that went to a doctor with complaints and were labelled as depressed or anxious--were considered as having a health problem from the onset of the prospective study, which then examined death rates, and corrected statistically for these health problems. I wrote to Dr. Liu, who finally pointed me to a Table (#2) in the Appendix in which you can "see effects", according to her. There is at least a 14% improvement in death rate if you are "happy most of the time" rather than unhappy. So the original finding that enhanced happiness leads to future improved health stands.
A Psychobiological Approach to a Psychobiological System
The Surgeon General added his emphasis on a very important part of the puzzle--the relationships between biological and psychological changes that form a very complex web in the relationships between happiness and health. It is unfortunate that the article did not mention anything about the key role of brain systems involving neuromodulators, particularly dopamine and phenethylamine. [Perhaps it is in the TEDMED tape, yet to be released.] It has become clear that increasing the levels of dopamine, which decline with age, increases longevity. We believe that dopamine is a key part of the Neureka! system.
These studies bring us closer to the reality of enhancing happiness, health and longevity of people all over the world.
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