You don't have to be hard-working or healthy to live a long life -- you just need to be happy.
Optimistic women live longer than pessimistic women, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently discovered after looking at data from the Women's Health Initiative. They found that eight years into the study, hopeful women were 14 percent more likely to be alive than despairing ones. Even the positive people who didn't take care of themselves outlived the fatalistic females.
Happiness Outweighs Everything
"Taking into account income, education, health behaviors like [controlling] blood pressure and whether or not you are physically active, whether or not you drink or smoke, we still see optimists with a decreased risk of death compared to pessimists," said Dr. Hilary Tindle, lead author of the study. The researchers reason better social supports and coping skills might help idealistic individuals exist a little longer.
So how do you become one of these cheerful people who outlive everyone else? It's something Gretchen Rubin is trying to uncover with the Happiness Project, which documents the year she spent "test-driving every principle, tip, theory and scientific study" about the pursuit of happiness. (A book on her studies will be released later this year.)
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"I started this project because one April morning, looking out the rain-spattered window of a bus, I asked myself, What do I want from life, anyway? And I thought, Well, I want to be happy," Rubin says. "I realized with a jolt that I never thought about happiness, or whether I was happy, or what I could do to be happier. I should have a happiness project! I thought. So I started one."
Daily, Rubin posts quotes, insights, commandments and experiments to help herself and others become happier. She debunks myths, such as "You'll Be Happier If You Insist On 'The Best,'" encourages readers to do things like find their comfort food (helloooo mac and cheese and brownies) and even gives her blessing to our Facebook addiction. She also makes lists of things she does every day to get gleeful, like laughing out loud and not nagging.
Spread the Joy
Since Rubin has discovered that one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy, she wants all of us to launch our own happiness projects with the help of a "Happiness Project Toolbox" site she'll soon set up. We think we'll give it a try, because if we can eat mac and cheese and brownies, spend a lot of time on Facebook, and still live to a ripe old age, that's a pretty sweet deal.
Tell us: What are you doing in the new year to be happier?