Bad Appraisals to Heart Attacks! Happiness guarantees freedom from these 13 monsters

It is indeed ironic! We are the world’s largest democracy and 15th August should ideally be celebrated as a cornerstone day in our nation’s history. Instead, the ‘glory day’ has been reduced to a long weekend and a marketing opportunity to peddle discounts in a ‘freedom sale’!

Intolerant or otherwise, we have probably turned into a nation of cynics. Some might argue that it took a spate of back-to-back Bhagat Singh films and a successful edition of the Munnabhai franchise for the current generation to reflect on the passion and values that shaped the freedom movement.

While a lazy brand manager is trying hard to force fit ‘freedom’ in his advertising campaign, we look at 13 ‘monster’ issues every urbanite faces and how happiness is a simple hack that can help attain freedom from all of them. Sounds too good to be true…just like one of those teleshopping commercials? Here is presenting research backed facts (just in case you don’t believe us!)

1) Bad Appraisals

It is the same story every year! You are never satisfied with your annual appraisal and instead of introspection, you tend to feel everyone is conspiring against you.

Bestselling author Shawn Achor introduces the concept of ‘Happiness Advantage’. Human brain functions better in a positive state and business outcome improves significantly. A happy employee is 40% more likely to receive a promotion. Go ahead, sulk at your own risk!

2) Heart Attacks

Extensive research has shown positive correlation between happiness and the functioning of the heart. A 10-year longitudinal study of 2000 Canadians showed that happier people had lower chances of developing a coronary artery disease even after 10 years. What is more significant is that for every one-point increase in positive emotions, risk of heart disease went down by 22 percent.

Karina Davidson and her research team at Columbia University reviewed a decade’s worth of data on 1,700 individuals and found that people who are “generally upbeat, enthusiastic and content” have a much lower risk of developing a heart disease.

3) Obesity

Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone and excess of it causes storage of visceral fat around your internal organs, often appearing as belly fat. Stress also makes you resistant to Leptin, the fat burning hormone.

The next time you are upset with your gym instructor or fed up with your diet consultant — remember your level of happiness plays a major role in the process of weight-loss. Stay Happy, Stay Lean!

4) Unproductivity

Gallup found that 70 percent of employees in the U.S. are either not engaged or actively disengaged, resulting in a whopping productivity loss of approximately $450 billion per year.

A study at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.

5) Failure

A meta-analysis of over 200 studies on happiness covering 2,75,000 people from all over the world by leading researchers such as Lyubomirsky and Diener shows that happiness precedes important outcomes and indicators of thriving. It leads to success in nearly every area such as career, health and relationships. Happiness is truly a precursor to success, not an outcome of it!

6) Loneliness

A happy person generates positive vibes around him/her. It makes intuitive sense that happy people would be popular amongst friends and relatives. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are the hormones responsible for our happiness. In fact, the release of oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and strengthens relationships.

George Vaillant who directed a study of 268 Harvard men over 40 years, said, that there are “70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”

7) Infection

Happiness is a great booster of immunity. In a 2003 experiment by Cohen et al, 350 adults volunteered to get exposed to the common cold. They discovered that those who were happier were less likely to develop a cold. Further research linked this to a higher antibody response to infection, which is a measure of strength of immunity. We see here a demonstration of happiness even working at the cellular level.

8) Anxiety

It seems that we can either be happy or stressed. It’s a no brainer then to make the choice. Happiness is an antidote to stress and anxiety. Barbara Fredrickson calls this the “undoing effect” of happiness. In short, happiness stress-proofs us, thereby giving us an edge over others.

9) Ageing

An interesting study by Langer (1979) on a group of 75 year olds, showed that just a change in mindset, could actually reverse the changes of aging and even make them look younger by 3 years. Many more studies have shown that happiness increases chances of recovery from disease as well as increases longevity.

10) Aches & Pains

Would you believe that unhappiness is actually painful and that there is supporting evidence for this? A 2005 study demonstrated that women with arthritis and chronic pain reported less increase in pain, over a period of three months, if they were more positive and happy.

11) Pessimism

Pessimism is a result of seeing the glass as half empty or viewing the world through a jaundiced eye. We all know that half empty could always be turned around to see it as half full, however, have we considered that the glass can be refilled? A positive frame of mind can not only make us happy but also drive away pessimism.

12) Insomnia

Serotonin is a key hormone responsible for our happiness. Deficiency of serotonin causes sleeping disorder and is usually treated by consuming supplements. Stay happy, Sleep better!

13) Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers have found that serotonin (the feel-good hormone) plays vital roles in the areas of the brain that regulate memory and learning, and they are looking at this system as a therapeutic drug target for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s.

I doubt if there can be a more compelling reason to become happier and our 70th Independence Day serves as a fitting backdrop. Unless, one is waiting for a pharma company to launch a “happiness” capsule; promoted as a wonder drug and available at a special discount in a mega ‘freedom’ sale!

This article first appeared here