Wellness experts are full of tips on how to live a healthier life, but are there things you can do to live a happier one?
A recent study by Harvard University says yes. Harvard followed 800 people throughout their lives, and determined key things people can do to live longer, happier lives.
1. Don’t smoke
It’s not new information, but in Tennessee where 22% of people still smoke, it bears repeating:
Smoking is the #1 predictive factor of poor health.
Heavy smoking was 10 times more frequent among those who died early than those who aged healthily. The good news: if you stop smoking by age 45, the effects of smoking can fade — and even become undetectable — by age 75.
2. Drink less alcohol
Drinking too much hurts your health but also your relationships. While some people report they drink to help them cope with their problems, the study showed that alcohol is a more often a cause of problems — stress, depression, social withdrawal, etc. — than a result of having those problems.
391,000 Tennesseans abuse alcohol or drugs
3. Keep learning
Education leads to better habits and healthier lives, regardless of your social class, IQ, income or the school you attend. The study found that education — along with the self-care and perseverance it fosters — is enough to predict health on its own, which is something proponents of education have long held. The more education people obtain, the more likely they are to avoid or stop smoking and not abuse alcohol.
4. Create loving childhoods
People who experience a warm, loving childhood are happier long-term. The study found that how much someone was loved as a child matters so much, in fact, that it can predict adult income better than a person’s social class. If your childhood was difficult, though, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to become an unhealthy adult. The good things that happen in childhood are more predictive than the bad, and finding love and support from a spouse, friends or family in adulthood can help you heal.
61% of Tennesseans are affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
5. Tend to your relationships
The study also found that a person’s ability to deal with other people is more important than IQ or social class when it comes to longevity and happiness. Social aptitude (aka emotional intelligence) is actually more important than intellectual intelligence when it comes to being happy. It’s also important to work to create new relationships when others fade away, and to keep a healthy, dynamic social circle.
6. Develop coping skills
How you respond to negative thoughts, feelings and events has long-term effects.
Coping mechanisms that often cause more harm than good include:
- Blaming others
- Being passive-aggressive
- Living in denial
- Lashing out in anger, sadness or frustration
- Retreating into fantasies to avoid reality
All of these reactive behaviors meet an emotional need in the short-term, but they cause all kinds of problems and turmoil in the long run.
Healthy, happy people, on the other hand, choose more mature methods of coping, including:
- Collaborating with others to resolve conflicts peaceably
- Being patient
- Looking on the bright side
- Being as concerned with the well-being of others as you are with your own
- Not taking yourself too seriously
7. Build your own community
People who get involved in the community are happier, healthier and live longer. Generativity — the need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation — is something that often develops in our 30s and 40s, when our need for achievement declines and our need for community increases. The study showed that people who are generative at age 50 were 3-6 times as likely to be happy and healthy at age 70.
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.