Why happiness is healthy
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN)Happiness — you know it when you see it, but it’s hard to define.
You might call it a sense of well-being, of optimism or of meaningfulness in life, although those could also be treated as separate entities. But whatever happiness is, we know that we want it, and that is just somehow good.
We also know that we don’t always have control over our happiness. Research suggests that genetics may play a big role in our normal level of subjective well-being, so some of us may start out at a disadvantage. On top of that, between unexpected tragedies and daily habitual stress, environmental factors can bring down mood and dry up our thirst for living.
Being able to manage the emotional ups and downs is important for both body and mind, said Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard School of Public Health.
“For physical health, it’s not so much happiness per se, but this ability to regulate and have a sense of purpose and meaning,” Kubzansky said.
Why be happy?
Many scientific studies, including some by Kubzansky, have found a connection between psychological and physical well-being.
A 2012 review of more than 200 studies found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Kubzansky and other Harvard School of Public Health researchers published these findings in the journal Psychological Bulletin.