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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. 

Long Lasting Happiness from Neureka! Training

After the Neureka! training sessions in our study, the subjects  reported themselves 32% happier.  Dr. Estate Sokhadze (Dept. of Psychiatry, Univ. of Louisville) and Dr. Jon Cowan (Peak Achievement Training) used the same question that the Australian happiness study did [see below] in our study to evaluate their happiness.  We now have evidence from a follow-up study, that the enhanced happiness lasts at least 4 months.  The responses to the same follow up question showed the same value for happiness improvement as the original measurement did right after training.  No loss!  This indicates that they learned happiness quite thoroughly after just five hours (12 sessions, 25 minutes each) of training.  Eight of the 11 subjects in the study indicated they felt happier in the four weeks after the study than they did in the four weeks before it. 

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


A press release from the University of Illinois on March 2, 2011 stated: “Happy or positive people tend to have better health and live longer than their counterparts who are unhappy, U.S. researchers say. Ed Diener, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues reviewed more than 160 studies involving humans and animals under stress."  The UPI 
article  quotes Dr. Diener: "I was almost shocked and certainly surprised to see the consistency of the data. All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states. Happiness is no magic bullet, but the evidence is clear and compelling that it changes your odds of getting disease or dying young."  Dr. Diener, who is one of the major researchers in positive psychology, posted the full article on his website.

The Large Australian Study Links Present Happiness to Future Health

One of the articles that Diener cited is the study done by the Australian Dept. of Labour and analyzed by Siahpush et al., [
See Abstract]  They surveyed nearly 10,000 people in 2001 and again in 2004.  Siahpush et al’s results from analyzing the survey indicated that those who were happy most of the time in 2001 were over 50% more likely to be both healthier and free of long term health concerns in 2004.

Happiness Leads to Success

For those who are looking for a more immediate payoff, enhancing happiness may also improve success.  Several years ago, Lyubomirsky and Diener published an article showing that this is actually more likely than success leading to happiness.  [See Abstract]. They discussed several different kinds of success – marriage, friendship, income, work performance and health -- and came to the same conclusion for each.

We have summarized all of this in a PowerPoint, which you are free to use in your presentations to groups that may be interested.  

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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