Tips from the Harvard Medical School
Want to improve your health? Start by focusing on things that bring you happiness. There is scientific evidence that positive emotions can help you live longer and healthier.
But to produce good health, positive emotions need to be long term. In other words, thinking positive thoughts for a month when you already have heart disease won't cure the disease. But lowering your stress levels over a period of years with a positive outlook and relaxation techniques could reduce your risk of heart problems.
Pathways to Happiness
In their research on the health-happiness connection, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan tested hundreds of volunteers, and they found three pathways which contribute to life satisfaction:
1. Feeling Good
Seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations, which focus on reaching happiness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.
2. Doing Good
Searching for meaning outside yourself by knowing your talents and sharing them with others.
3. Engaging Fully
Pursuing activities that engage you fully. People report the greatest satisfaction when they are totally immersed in what they are doing. Researchers call this state of intense absorption "flow."
How Do You Know if You're in "Flow?"
You Lose Awareness of Time
You aren't watching the clock, and hours can pass like minutes. As filmmaker George Lucas said, talent is "a combination of something you love a great deal and something you can lose yourself in--something you can start at 9:00 in the morning, then look up from your work and it's 10:00 at night."
You Aren't Thinking About Yourself
You aren't focused on your comfort, and you aren't wondering how you look or how your actions will be perceived by others. Your awareness of yourself is only in relation to the activity itself, such as your fingers on a piano keyboard, or the way you position a knife to cut vegetables, or the balance of your body parts as you ski or surf.
You Aren't Interrupted by Extraneous Thoughts
You aren't thinking about such mundane matters as your shopping list or what to wear tomorrow.
You are Active
Activities which produce a feeling of "flow" require an active involvement, and you have some control over what you are doing.
You Work Effortlessly
"Flow" activities require effort, but you feel everything is "clicking" and feels almost effortless.