Georgetown study finds being happy can add years to your life and here’s why

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Good vibes can bring good health, too.

A new study conducted by researchers from Georgetown University found that psychological intervention designed to boost “subjective well-being” can bring positive effects on self-reported mental health.

The study, published in the SAGE Journal of Psychological Science, was done with researchers from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the University of Virginia.

“Our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health,” Kostadin Kushlev, a professor in Georgetown’s Department of Psychology, said in a press release.

“In a six-month randomized controlled trial, we found that an intervention focused explicitly on increasing subjective well-being had effects on physical health,” he added. “Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that happiness not only feels good, but it is good for other outcomes including physical health.”

While being healthier has been linked to happiness, Kushlev and his team wanted to find out how investing in one’s psychological well-being can bring health benefits. The researchers had 155 adults assigned to two different tests – a waitlist-control or 12-week positive psychological intervention – with the latter measuring three different sorts of happiness – the Core Self, the Experiential Self, and the Social Self.

The Core Self focused on personal values, strengths, and goals, while the Experiential Self revolved around emotion regulation and mindfulness. The Social Self focused and “taught individuals techniques to cultivate gratitude, foster positive social interactions, and engage more with their community.”

Researchers said that none of these modules focused on physical health or healthy behaviors like sleep, exercise, or diet. The program was dubbed ENHANCE — or Enduring Happiness and Continued Self-Enhancement — which consisted of weekly modules by either a clinician or by participants through a web portal. The sessions were an hour-long lesson on principles of happiness, which including journaling and guided meditation.

Here’s what researchers found through the study:

“Participants reported increasing levels of subjective well-being compared with control participants over the course of the 12-week program. Test subjects also reported fewer sick days than the control participants throughout the program as well as three months after the end of treatment.

The online mode of administering the program was shown to be as effective as the in-person mode led by trained facilitators. This speaks to the potential of such interventions to be scaled in ways that reach more people.”