Happiness is one of those experiences that we just know when it happens. If you need to think about whether you’re happy, you probably aren’t at that moment. Although you can’t be happy all of the time, you can be happy most of the time. You just need to recognize more of the happiness that’s already happening. Unhappiness happens to the happiest of people. People are meant to feel a gamut of emotions including happiness but not exclusive to it. Actually feeling our unhappiness clears the space for us to feel happiness if we’re feeling unhappy. Here are some kinds of questions that researchers are asking as they explore a new—and sometimes controversial—avenue of public health: documenting and understanding the link between positive emotions and good health.
Could a sunny outlook mean fewer colds and less heart disease?
Do hope and curiosity somehow protect against hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory tract infections?
Do happier people live longer—and, if so, why? As people get older, they naturally face the health and emotional concerns typically associated with aging. From bone degeneration to the loss of friends or a spouse, there are many issues to face in our senior years.
But negative emotions are only one-half of the equation, it would looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed.
Do you know a grumpy person who always seems to be getting sick? That may be no coincidence: Research is now finding a link between happiness and a stronger immune system. Stress is not only upsetting on a psychological level but also triggers biological changes in our hormones and blood pressure. The more time seniors spend with family and friends, the more likely they are to report enjoyment and happiness in their lives, and the less likely they are to say they are significantly stressed and worried. Happiness seems to temper these effects, or at least help us recover more quickly.
Isolation is another risk factor that has been found to negatively impact senior health and well being. Exercise is known to boost your mood.
Studies have shown the companionship of a pet can be wonderful for seniors. They have a sidekick to be with throughout the day. It also gives seniors a reason to go out for a walk, get exercise, and wake up every morning. Plus, pets give unconditional love that makes seniors feel good.
Emotional problems are as important as physical ones. It is essential for seniors to seek immediate treatment when they are not feeling well. This could range from fatigue to heart palpitations to depression. Depression in the elderly is also frequently confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medicines used to treat them. Using a series of standard questions, a primary care doctor can provide an effective screening for depression, allowing for better diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the following risk factors for depression are often seen in the elderly:
Certain medicines or combination of medicines
Damage to body image (from amputation, cancer surgery, or heart attack)
Family history of major depressive disorder
Fear of death
Living alone, social isolation
Past suicide attempt(s)
Presence of chronic or severe pain
Previous history of depression
Recent loss of a loved one
Brain scans of people who develop their first depression in old age often reveal spots in the brain that may not be receiving adequate blood flow, believed to result from years of high blood pressure. Chemical changes in these brain cells may enhance the likelihood of depression separate from any life stress. There are several treatment options available for depression. They include medicine, psychotherapy or counseling, or electroconvulsive therapy or other newer forms of brain stimulation sometimes, a combination of these treatments may be used. The stigma attached to mental illness and psychiatric treatment is even more powerful among the elderly than among younger people. This stigma can keep elderly people from acknowledging that they are depressed, even to themselves. Elderly people and their families sometimes also may wrongly misidentify depression symptoms as “normal” reactions to life stresses, losses, or the aging process. Also, depression may be expressed through physical complaints rather than traditional symptoms. This can delay appropriates treatment. In addition, depressed older people may not report their depression because they believe there is no hope for help. So talk with your doctor about how you are feeling & how it is effecting your health, treating depression can help you regain your zest for life.
Experts theorize that the greater happiness observed in older adults may have something to do with their better ability to cope with life’s little disappointments, and the fact that they may feel less pressure and have lower expectations, and may be better at just letting things go. Mood researchers also says happiness has a hand in physical health — it’s linked to lower stress and better decision-making and memory skills, for example. And in seniors, positive feelings benefit brain power. The evidence certainly seen to confirm that positive thinking can really improve your life.
“He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden.” Plato (427-346 B.C.)