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eToims® Blog

Positive Emotions| Happiness|Longevity

This post was written by etoims on April 8, 2012
Posted Under: Uncategorized

I write this blog in honor of the sudden passing of a dearly loved centenarian, a very positive person, physically able and mentally clear to the end. Without a high school or college degree, Du was my role model in the 30 years I knew her well. She always dressed warmly, ate lightly and yet kept a steady weight, faithfully did self massage, read a lot and slept well.   I have never seen her arrogant, sad, angry, bitter, spiteful, depressed or blaming others.  On the contrary, my constant vision of her is that of kindness, gentleness, warmth, love, care and a delight to be around. It was a privilege to know her.  We were fortunate to have received so much love and care from her and we thank her very much.  She had lots of friends and family and was a leader in her circle because she read well and could discuss present day situations of current and past important local and world news.  She was still able to play board games, walked with a walker, cooked for self and others, lived independently and offered love, time and attention to all of us.  She was a vision of life and vitality.

I did a literature search on positive emotions in elders and let me share this with you since Du practiced these all her life which I am sure played major roles in her longevity.

Behavioral, neuroendocrine, and immune pathways have now been identified that help explain how negative emotions affect the physical health of older persons. Positive emotions, however, have been a relatively unexplored terrain for medical and social scientists.

CORRELATES OF POSITIVE EMOTIONS

“Having reviewed research involving representative samples of several hundred thousand people from all over the world, psychologists Myers and Diener describe the correlates and consequences of happiness, concluding that people who are happy tend to be less self-focused, less hostile, friendlier and more outgoing. Another important discovery of theirs - one that is particularly relevant to the topic we are discussing - is that happiness does not seem to be highly dependent on external circumstances such as the degree of wealth.

According to Myers and Diener, four traits characterize happy people: (1) high self-esteem - they believe themselves to be more ethical, more intelligent, less prejudiced, and better able to get along with others; (2) feeling in control - they believe that they have personal control over their lives and futures; (3) optimistic and hopeful - they often see the best in people and circumstances; and (4) extroverted and outgoing - although they are happy whether alone or with others.

Another correlate of happiness is having close, supportive personal relationships. Numerous studies document a positive relationship between social support, happiness, and life satisfaction in later life and an inverse relationship between social support and depression or other negative emotions. High social support, in turn, also predicts better physical health and lower mortality, even in studies that have controlled for depression and psychological stress.

Physical health is one of the strongest correlates of happiness, particularly among older adults. Physical disability often has an enormous impact on the determinants of happiness, including self-esteem, sense of personal control, optimism about the future, and desire to interact with others.

Finally, Myers and Diener note that religiously active people report greater happiness. Controlling for social support, depression, and stressful life events does not explain this association, leaving open the possibility that positive emotions play a role”.

Reference:
Harold G. Koenig MD: Positive Emotions, Physical Disability, and Mortality in Older Adults  Journal of the American Geriatrics Society - Volume 48, Issue 11 (November 2000)

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