You’re having a bad day, and a friend tells you to smile more. You sneer at them, you both laugh, and everything is instantly better. Your friend may not know it, but his or her advice is not only true, it’s proven. In fact, a lot of the everyday beliefs that make life sound so simple have been scientifically proven.
In the end, life is all about friends and family
No one on their deathbed ever regretted not spending more time at work. After recording the last words of dying patients, a nurse discovered that not spending enough time with family and friends was one of the leading regrets on the deathbed. Various studies have found that the more time you spend with family and friends, the happier you are and that relationships are worth $100,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction.
Smile, it’s good for you
As a child, you were probably told that smiling was better for you than frowning – and it’s true. In a study, Michigan State University found that smiling can alleviate the pain of an upsetting situation and improve your mood. Smiling has also been found to improve our attention and help people perform better on cognitive tasks.
Helping others makes you healthier
Countless religions (and now science) teach that helping others will help you to help yourself. A recent study by the University of North Carolina found that the type of happiness that comes from helping others and having a larger purpose in life (eudaimonic happiness) makes the human body produce more antibodies than other types of happiness. Around 100 hours a year is the optimal time we should dedicate to others.
Accepting things outside of your control reduces suffering
Buddhism teaches that one must accept things that our outside of our control in order to reduce suffering. The Journal of Happiness compared the life satisfaction of older adults living with assistance and those living independently. They found that the participants who moved into care were actually happier because they had adapted and accepted what they could not change.
“Getting your hands dirty” can combat depression
This old saying is supposed to encourage you to take part in unpleasant work – what if we took it in a literal sense? Breathing in the smell of dirt can actually have similar effects to antidepressant drugs. Bacteria in the soil known as mycobacterium vaccae stimulate the release of extra serotonin in the brain. Low levels of serotonin cause depression. After being treated with the bacteria, cancer patients reported increases in their quality of life.
You’re happiest when you’re among nature
Getting to know nature is encouraged by just about every belief system. Science has proven that you’re happiest when you’re outside rather than inside. According to Oska University, happiness is maximised at 13.9 degrees centigrade, or 57 degrees fahrenheit. Other meteorological effects, such as humidity and wind speed have little effect on happiness.
We need the support of a community to flourish
Communities have long been the basis of human development. Even now, scientists recognise that we need the support of a community to flourish and survive. A study by Brigham Young University and University of North Carolina found that people who maintain strong social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival. Community can have more positive and negative effects on health than exercise and obesity.
Tai chi can help treat age-related health issues
The ancient Chinese martial art of T’ai Chi has been practiced for hundreds of years because of it’s supposed health benefits. Now, various studies have found that the defense training also helps to prevent and treat many age-related health problems, including arthritis, low bone density and heart disease.
Meditation reduces stress
After an eight-week course of meditation, scientists found that the ancient technique rewires the brain. Parts of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, while parts associated with stress shrank.
Compassion is key to a meaningful life
Metta is a Buddhist tradition that means “loving-kindness.” It’s expressed through a form of meditation in which you cultivate loving-kindness and compassion towards yourself, the ones you love and all sentient beings. Studies have found that those who practice “loving-kindness” are happier and have deeper sense of mindfulness.
Being thankful is good for you
You were always told to be thankful as a child and now, scientists think saying thanks can help you live longer. Studies by the Journal of Happiness have found that expressing gratitude can increase your happiness and life satisfaction as well as decrease symptoms of depression.
Love is everything
All you need is love. In a massive study, Harvard researchers followed the lives of 268 men over 75 years to try and discover what made life worth living. The most meaningful finding was that a happy life revolves around finding and keeping love.