Happiness makes you live longer

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I was shocked recently when Kevin, a friend of mine, died. As he was only one year older than I am, it was a bit of a wake-up call. He was a positive, clean-living soul who, in the fairness of life, should have lived forever. It made me wonder about the people that I do know who are miserable, moaning people, who seem to live forever. 

I came across some research on longevity and happiness that made me think…

Did you know that the genes that make up your DNA each have a bit on the end called a telomere? This is like a little tag or a tail that we assume is there to protect the genes. At the point of cell division, as the cells reproduce, a bit of the telomere gets used up. With successive cell divisions over time, the telomeres get shorter and the DNA in the genes begin to be affected and start to degrade. This process of degradation is called ageing. If we are to stop, or inhibit, the ageing process, it will be because we can inhibit telomere loss.

The evidence would suggest that people that are happy, positive and optimistic develop strong immune systems that protect against telomere loss, ensuring that they live a good length of time. On my travels, I have met so many people who would bear this out. So why is it that some people that are demonstrably positive, die young and some, miserable moaners, live forever? Time to meditate and ponder…

The other day I was listening to a person moan about the perpetual problems that have plagued them and their family for generations. If there was a flying cow pat they would catch it. If a pipe burst, it would be above their head. You get the idea. They were the family whose number won the lotto this week making them multimillionaires, except for the fact that they forgot to buy the ticket. The bit that didn’t fit was that all their family had, it seemed, lived into stout and sturdy old age, some even getting the telegram from the Queen.

As they were reciting their latest tale of woe, I had the realisation that they were actually enjoying it. I began to see the pleasure that they gained from the problems that they, held in their mind, manufactured every day. Their problems made them happy; they gave purpose and provided meaning to their life. They has a reason to get out of bed and engage in life and social relationships, and allowed them to moan, which was mutual moaning, with family, friends and colleagues.

“Could it be”, I thought, “that what I see as such negative behaviour could be experienced as positive, happy, and meaningful by someone else?” The answer has to be “yes”. I guess that happiness, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. After all, if you get great joy from jumping out of a plane at 10’000 feet, your telomeres may even grow in length. If, on the other hand, you asked me to jump from the plane from such a height, my telomeres might shrivel up.

Now, my life, my therapy, meditation, mindfulness, and the national happiness project all suggest that we need to aim for a happy and fulfilled life. The question leaves me still stuck on the issues that if moaning makes you happy, is it a good thing? For me, people like that mainly make me unhappy and I like to create as much distance between me and them as possible.

So what do you think? If moaning makes you happy, is it a good thing? And, what is it that makes you happy?

Take care,

Sean x

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My name is Sean Orford. I am a therapist based in the UK, working for a variety of public and private organisations. I am also a speaker, writer and published author. I hope you enjoy my weekly blog. If you'd like to know more then please do get in touch.

One Comment on "Happiness makes you live longer"

  1. Tom Hardy says:

    I know so many people like this! Great post, Sean. Thanks for sharing x

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