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September 4, 2006

Supportive Care for Happiness
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

A recent evaluation in the Psychological Bulletin, reviewing 225 scientific studies, has given some interesting answers for the importance of and what makes happiness. The conclusion that it is better to succeed in life than fail is a contributing factor to a happy status. Having many positive emotions from experiences helps in obtaining happiness. This often may allow you to do things that promote a more happy status. Having friends, a good job, a happy marriage or long-term relationship, and being financially solvent contributes to a happiness status, as well as being loved by your family and your community. It is suggested that if patients are happy, they are also healthy, but this is not always true.

Starting out the day with love from your family, companions and friends, and going to a pleasant employment, where you are appreciated, help promote a positive attitude with optimism, helping promote better health. It also helps you cope better even if you don't receive small or major social rewards. Evidence suggests that it also may improve your immune system. It was noted in the Wellness Letter, volume 22, issue 7, April 2006 that happy people do better socially and are blessed with friends, creatively solve problems, and are more resilient in adapting to adversity.

It is noted that studies like this are done in a non-threatening situation, and things worked well, where there were no serious problems or conflicts. However when faced with catastrophic problems such as earthquakes and hurricanes, or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the chances of happiness sometimes fade. Unhappiness, discontent, and frustration can be a major hindrance in obtaining happiness, although many unhappy, greedy people can be successful, and thus, there is no perfect rule.

In the March 2006 UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, the study's conclusion was, "Happiness is a great asset, but no guarantee to a perfect life".

Reprinted by permission CancerSupportiveCare

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