Page 9 - Scene Magazine 45-03 March 2020
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 Research is now finding a link between happiness and a stronger immune system. Instead of merely impacting symptoms, happiness seemed to be literally working on a cellular level.
Happiness Combats Stress – Stress is not only upsetting on a psychological level but also triggers biological changes in our hormones and blood pressure. Happiness seems to temper these effects, or at least help us recover more quickly.
Researchers have found associations between happiness and stress. In the study above the happiest participants had 23 percent lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the least happy, and another indicator of stress – the level of a blood-clotting protein that increases after stress – was 12 times lower.
Happiness also seems to carry
benefits even when stress is inevitable. In the wake of such stress, the hearts of the happiest individuals tend to recover most quickly.
Happiness Protects Your Heart –
Love and happiness may not actually originate in the heart, but they are good for it. Studies as far back as 2005 have found that happiness is a good predictor of, and has a positive impact on, lower heart rate and blood pressure. Follow up studies continued to measure just how much. The happiest participants had
a lower heart rate on follow-up (about
six beats slower per minute), and the happiest participants during the follow-up had better blood pressure.
Research has also uncovered a link between happiness and another measure of heart health: heart rate variability, which refers to the time interval between
heartbeats and is associated with risk for various diseases. A 2008 study seemed to link happiness to healthier hearts even among people who might have heart problems. The participants who rated themselves as happiest on the day their hearts were tested had a healthier pattern of heart rate variability on that day.
Happiness Can Lengthen Our Lives – In the end, the ultimate health indicator might be longevity – and here, especially, happiness comes into play. In perhaps the most famous study
of happiness and longevity, the life expectancy of Catholic nuns was linked to the amount of positive emotion they expressed in an autobiographical essay they wrote upon entering their convent decades earlier, typically in their 20s. Researchers combed through these
Studies suggest that happiness leads to better health, makes the heart healthier, the immune system
stronger, and our lives longer.
  One experiment found that immune system activity in the same individual went up and down depending
on their happiness. On days when they were happier, participants had a better immune response, as measured by the presence of an antibody in their saliva that defends against foreign substances.

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