"Good Genes are Nice, but Joy is Better." (Harvard Gazette)
“When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”
While there’s plenty of advice out there for reducing stress and anxiety, Diener says that achieving real happiness goes beyond that. “Learning to enjoy your work, being more grateful and having really positive relationships are important, too,” he says.
Laughing decreases pain, may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and can reduce anxiety.
Positive emotions can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength.
Leisure activities offer a distraction from problems, a sense of competence and many other benefits. For example, twins who participated in leisure activities were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia than their fellow twins in one study.
For one, joy is commanded all over the Bible. It was commanded of God’s first-covenant people, Israel, perhaps especially in the Psalms. “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!” (Psalm 149:2). “Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad” (Psalm 14:7). “Rejoice in the Lord” (Psalm 97:12). “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2). “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). With literally hundreds more instances throughout the Old Testament.
Researchers have identified two main tendencies that keep us from experiencing, extending, and expanding our joy: the negativity bias and habituation. The negativity bias refers to our mind's innate tendency to give more weight to the negative; Roy Baumeister(link is external) has shown that we tend to remember and focus more on negative experiences. Habituation, discussed in research on the hedonic treadmill(link is external), refers to the fact that while we receive boosts of happiness from new positive experiences, over time, we get used to these experiences and they no longer have the same effect.
They also found that, the more these people shared their happiness with someone on a given day, the happier and more satisfied they were on that particular day.