Happiness as preventative medicine!

Happiness as preventative medicine!

by Ingrid Peschke for the Huffington Post

That probably depends on how you define it. If you think of happiness as fleeting and resulting from factors outside of yourself, like a new job or a Hawaiian vacation, well then it's probably not so beneficial. But if you see it as inherently within you — something you give, rather than get — then it's a different story.

This might sound like a tall order or even blue-eyed optimism. But what if behind this attitude was the grounded belief that good is natural and happiness is permanent, based on a more spiritual view of your life? Perhaps more in line with what 19th-century theologian, religious founder and author, Mary Baker Eddy, had to say. "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it."

Beginning from the standpoint that happiness is spiritual and that it naturally benefits and includes "all mankind" changes the equation from one of "getting" to "sharing." And that just might be a life-changing, health-altering approach. Why health altering? Well, it's hard to overlook the results.

For instance, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., describes a case study involving severely-depressed people in his book, Authentic Happiness. These people had just one task a day: to go to a website and record three good things that happened to them over the course of their day. After 15 days, they went from a label of "severely depressed" to "mildly or moderately depressed," and 94 percent of them reported feeling better. All they had to do was focus on the good in their lives and they were happier.

You could say focusing on the good is an active prayer that has transformative results.

Perhaps you've heard of the ambitious 75 year Harvard Grant study that set out to answer the question, "What predicts a happy life?" Considered the longest study of human development of its kind, it followed the lives of 268 male Harvard undergraduates –considered the best and brightest — from the classes of 1938 to 1940, regularly collecting detailed personal data.

The many decades and 20 million dollars expended on the study ended up pointing to one simple conclusion: Giving and receiving love equals happiness.

Dr. George Vaillant, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, directed the project for more than three decades and recently published a summary of insights the study yielded called, Triumphs of Experience (November 2012). In Vaillant's own words, '"Happiness is love. Full stop.'" He goes on to say "Happiness isn't about me." In other words, our lives have meaning when we are in the business of giving to others. This echoes the point that "happiness is unselfish and cannot exist alone… "

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