Dr. Susan Conradsen understands happiness on a scientific level.
As a professor of psychology at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, she has researched “The Science of Happy” – meaning she’s investigated aspects of people’s lives that are associated with happiness. And, she recently led a seminar on her findings hosted by The Spires at Berry College, the visionary new lakeside retirement community opening in 2019 on the beautiful campus of Berry College.
Dr. Conradsen provided tips on living healthier and happier lives based on her research.
Positive psychology studies show that a person can consciously make behavioral and physical changes to further promote happiness, increase positive emotions, reduce stress, and improve one’s overall wellbeing.
An active lifestyle is very important! Adults aged 65 years and older should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week – or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity includes walking, cycling, canoeing, ballroom dancing, water aerobics, tennis and swimming. It’s a great way to discover new healthy hobbies that will improve your life.
Taking a walk around the neighborhood can also benefit one’s physical health and social connections – walk as little as 30 minutes a day with a friend or partner to see immediate benefits. Lastly, flexibility and strength training are becoming increasingly important as we age. Whether it’s taking yoga classes, lifting weights, or taking on weight-bearing exercises at home, make sure to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle.
Adopt daily habits
To achieve happiness and mindfulness, adopting daily habits is a helpful activity. One example is to form an “attitude of gratitude.” The more we focus on gratitude, the more it can better shape our outlook on life. Keep a gratitude journal in which you jot down three things you are grateful for every morning. And try to come up with three new things you are grateful for every day. The benefits of cultivating gratitude include a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, greater happiness and decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Build a strong social network
A support network of friends and family is extremely important to one’s wellbeing. Research from the National Institutes of Health shows that social support is a predictor of longevity, physical and psychological wellbeing – a high quality or quantity of social networks decreases risk of mortality, and social isolation is a major risk factor for a shorter lifespan.
As an example, stress is incredibly damaging to one’s physical and emotional health – it weakens the immune system, increases risk of developing a chronic illness, and can result in insomnia, depression and anxiety. Friends, family and significant others play a pivotal role in helping people buffer the stress out of their lives, which boosts immune systems and mental health. Instead of spending 30 minutes perusing social media networks in the evening, pick up the phone and call one friend per week, or write a personal note to a friend. Dedicating time to invest in and nurture individual relationships is one of the best ways to improve happiness.