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Happiness is Still the Best Drug

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Happiness is Still the Best Drug about undefined
Health authorities are not exactly clear how to define it. But the essence is that people who feel good about life live longer.

Whatever definition they eventually agree on, there's no doubt that personal well-being is vitally important to health and longevity.

It encompasses feelings of self-worth; how satisfied we are with life; a belief that what we do has value; having activities to look forward to; and day-to-day emotional experiences.

Here’s a simple way to increase your own life satisfaction. . .

One of many ways to increase well-being is to listen regularly to the music we enjoy.

But new findings suggest relaxing to our favorite sounds from the comfort of our armchairs may not be enough. There's something else we need to do to embrace music's ability to add years to our lives.

More on that in a moment. Meanwhile, let’s look at the whole happiness thing in general.

Feel Good - Live Longer

There's a good deal of research linking lifespan with well-being.

Researchers from the University of Texas analyzed data from nearly 7000 Americans over a period of 28 years and found that subjective well-being (SWB) significantly predicted longevity.1 Another study out of Germany found that each one-unit increase in positive affect (a scale encompassing pleasurable feelings about life) resulted in an 18% reduced risk of death among people 65 and over. They described SWB as "an important predictor of mortality." 2 Finnish researchers found mortality rates of 30% among men and women aged 75 and over who described life satisfaction as low, compared to just 19% among those who reported a high level of well-being.3 In other research, data gathered from 11,000 people aged 50 and older from England, revealed that a high positive affect added an average of nine years to a person's life. Even though many factors were taken into account that could influence the findings, those in the lowest third for life enjoyment had three times the risk of death compared to those in the highest third.4 So feeling good about life is of paramount importance.

Concert Therapy

Now, getting back to music -- O2, a major UK concert venue, teamed up with Patrick Fagan, consumer psychologist and associate lecturer at Goldsmith's College, London.

The researchers assessed 60 adults for psychological health and well-being before dividing them into three groups. One group was assigned to dog walking, another to practice yoga, and the third to attend a live music event for 20 minutes. They all wore heart rate monitors while carrying out these tasks.

Findings revealed those enjoying the vocals of a British pop singer had a 21% gain in mood and well-being compared to only 10% for yoga and 7% for the dog walkers.

The live music experience also saw improvements in various indicators of well-being, such as a 25% increase in self-worth, a rise of 25% for feeling close to others, and a 75% boost in mental stimulation.

O2 itself polled 2000 adults and found those attending concerts once every two weeks or more scored at the highest levels for happiness, contentment, self-esteem and productivity.

They also found two out of three people felt happier at a live music event compared to listening to recordings at home. 40% cited the atmosphere of a live performance for what made it special. Ten percent found it to be a "spiritual" experience.

Patrick Fagin commented, "Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and well-being - with fortnightly or regular attendance being the key.

"Combining all of our findings with O2's research, we arrive at a prescription of a gig a fortnight which could pave the way for almost a decade more years of life."5

A Few Caveats About These Studies

Now, let’s admit there are a few problems or potential problems with these studies. First, they were sponsored by a concert promoter and may be biased.

Next, I wouldn’t imagine that a beginner at yoga is going to instantly find it fun. It can be quite hard, and the benefits emerge over time. They aren’t instant. Meanwhile it’s easy to enjoy a concert from the first bar (in both meanings of the term, hah!)

When it comes to the dog walking experience, I don’t know whether it’s enjoyable or a chore, especially if it’s not your dog.

The poll data about frequent concert goers is more interesting. I can see that an ardent fan who attends a music event every two weeks might be happier than someone who doesn’t. And I can see that live music is more rewarding than listing to a recording. That’s not hard to believe.

The big takeaway is that happiness does add years to your life, and it doesn’t drop from the sky. You need to do something.

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