Our Happiness Training Improves Long-Term Health and Success
In this study, researchers asked the subjects to raise their level of Neureka! using neurofeedback with the Peak BrainHappiness Trainer for 15 minutes. Then the researcher asked the subjects to describe what it felt like, in their own words, when they could see the level of brainwave output had changed.
All of the subjects used very positive words to describe what it felt like to be at higher Neureka! levels. There were some fascinating descriptions, all but one very positive. They used words such as: love, compassion and joy.
A press release from the University of Illinois on March 2, 2011 stated: “Happy or positive people tend to have better health and live longer than their counterparts who are unhappy, U.S. researchers say. Ed Diener, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues reviewed more than 160 studies involving humans and animals under stress.” The UPI article quotes Dr. Diener: “I was almost shocked and certainly surprised to see the consistency of the data. All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states. Happiness is no magic bullet, but the evidence is clear and compelling that it changes your odds of getting disease or dying young.”
One of the articles that Diener cited is the study done by the Australian Dept. of Labour and analyzed by Siahpush et al., [See Abstract] They surveyed nearly 10,000 people in 2001 and again in 2004. Siahpush et al’s results from analyzing the survey indicated that those who were happy most of the time in 2001 were over 50% more likely to be both healthier and free of long term health concerns in 2004.
For those who are looking for a more immediate payoff, enhancing happiness may also improve success. Several years ago, Lyubomirsky and Diener published an article showing that this is actually more likely than success leading to happiness. [See Abstract]. They discussed several different kinds of success – marriage, friendship, income, work performance and health — and came to the same conclusion for each.
Unfortunately, almost at the same time, the British Journal Lancet published a very large epidemiological study by Bette Liu and colleagues claiming exactly the opposite–that happiness did not affect future death rates. This was reported on CBS Sunday Morning and elsewhere. The study contained a number of methodological errors and poor assumptions, and was soon called into question by an OpEd piece in the LA Times, authored by Dr. Diener and his colleagues. I spotted one of the major problems that they referred to and wrote to the author. It seems that those British women who were unhappiest–those that went to a doctor with complaints and were labelled as depressed or anxious–were considered as having a health problem from the onset of the prospective study, which then examined death rates, and corrected statistically for these health problems. Dr. Cowan wrote to Dr. Liu, who finally pointed him to a Table (#2) in the Appendix in which you can “see effects”, according to her. There is at least a 14% improvement in death rate if you are “happy most of the time” rather than unhappy. So the original finding that enhanced happiness leads to future improved health stands.
The Surgeon General added his emphasis on a very important part of the puzzle–the relationships between biological and psychological changes that form a very complex web in the relationships between happiness and health. It is unfortunate that the article did not mention anything about the key role of brain systems involving neuromodulators, particularly dopamine and phenethylamine. It has become clear that increasing the levels of dopamine, which decline with age, increases longevity. We believe that dopamine is a key part of the Neureka! system