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Flowchart for a Happier, Healthier, More Productive New Year

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Flowchart for Happiness by Meryl Ann Butler

Why be happy?

1. Happier people are healthier people:

Dr. Derek Cox, Director of Public Health at Dumfries and Galloway NHS (Scotland), says that happiness might be as powerful a predictor of health, if not a more powerful predictor, than other lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking, diet, and physical activity.

Andrew Steptoe, the British Heart Foundation Professor of Psychology at University College, London, notes that happier people also have greater protection against stroke and heart disease.

2. Happier people live longer:

University College in London studied 3,500 people, and discovered that those who reported feeling happiest had a 35 percent lower risk of dying when compared with those who reported feeling least happy.

3. Happier people are better at solving problems:

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In "A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition," authors Gregory F. Ashby, Alice M. Isen, and And U. Turken, summarize: "Positive affect systematically influences performance on many cognitive tasks. A new neuropsychological theory is proposed that accounts for many of these effects by assuming that positive affect is associated with increased brain dopamine levels... For example, the theory assumes that creative problem solving is improved, in part, because increased dopamine release in the anterior cingulate improves cognitive flexibility and facilitates the selection of cognitive perspective."

An Attitude of Gratitude

Dr. Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis, professor, is the author of "Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier."

He notes that people who consciously acquire an "attitude of gratitude" experience significant advantages, and his research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, have a stronger immune system, and bounce back more quickly from adversity than those who don't practice gratitude.

Emmons, who is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, also notes, "To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings."

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Some of the strategies he suggests include keeping a journal of gratitude, learning gratitude-oriented prayers, and using visual reminders.

You can download a free "visual reminder" - an 8.5" x 11" pdf of the "Are You Happy" flowchart in this article - at . Happy New Year!  


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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing for over 25 years. She studied art with Harold Ransom Stevenson in Sea Cliff NY for seven years before opening her own art school. Stevenson had (more...)

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