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#HappyFacts: Happiness is Contagious

Each week, Live Happy Radio presents #HappyFacts designed to enlighten, educate and entertain you. Here’s a look at what we’re talking about this week:

Give to live (longer)

Challenge acceptedIf you love to volunteer, your efforts to help others might also help you live longer.

Although the act of giving back to others has been proven to have many positive benefits, researchers still aren’t sure why that is the case. But research from Suzanne Richards, Ph.D., of the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K., indicates that active volunteers not only are happier, but they live longer, too.

There are many reasons it could be so healthy for you, including providing us with important social connections and human contact, and causing us to get up and “do” something instead of spending that time doing something sedentary, like watching television. Volunteering can give us a deep sense of purpose and happiness, both of which are associated with longer, healthier lives.

Before you decide volunteering is a fountain of youth, though, there’s a catch. To really make it work in your favor, it’s important you’re doing it for the right reasons: Susan’s research shows that such health benefits don’t apply to those who are doing it to help themselves rather than for the good of others.

Catch some happiness

Friends spreading joyThere’s always some sort of “bug” going around, it seems, and if you hang around with the wrong people (or the right people at the wrong time), you just might catch it. That’s true for colds and flu, but it’s also true for moods.

Through a process known as social contagion, moods can spread from one person to the next, and more recent research shows that moods can even be changed or affected by emotional expressions of friends on your social networks.

There are a couple of good points to notice, though, based on these findings.

First, you now know that your moods can affect the moods of those around you. And secondly, you know that the moods of those around you are influencing how you feel.

If you keep that in mind, you’ll not only realize that you can have a bigger impact on your social network, family and co-workers than you might have previously imagined, but you can also plan to avoid those Debbie Downers to keep their bad moods from ruining your good one.

Take a breath

Inhales DeeplyFor years, deep breathing has been advised as a way of calming oneself or helping to gain focus. But now we know that the secret isn’t just in taking a breath, it’s how you take that breath.

Researchers from Northwestern University discovered that breathing through our noses provides a much different experience than breathing through our mouths. Study subjects who breathed through their noses had stronger electrical rhythms in their amygdala and hippocampus. That’s significant because those regions of the brain are crucial for our emotions and memories.

What does that mean to us non-science people? Plenty. When combined with slow, deep breathing—which can calm the nervous system and slow heart rate—nasal inhalation can provide us with a more accurate emotional picture of what is happening. It also allows us to tap into the brain’s memory center, empowering us to make better, calmer decisions.

In times of stress, that could mean the difference between feeling anxious and being able to roll with it.

So next time you’re feeling under pressure, take a deep breath—through your nose—and see what a difference it makes.


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