A review of 160 published studies confirms a compelling connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity. Ed Diener of the University of Illinois and colleagues found that subjects who reported high subjective well-being—life satisfaction, absence of negative emotions, optimism and positive emotions—enjoyed better health and longer lives.
As well, the evidence associating a positive mind-set and enjoyment of life with better health and longer life was stronger even than that linking obesity to reduced longevity: “Combined with experimental human and animal research, as well as naturalistic studies of changes of subjective well-being and physiological processes over time, the case that subjective well-being influences health and longevity in healthy populations is compelling.” The researchers submit that positive feelings “predict longevity and health beyond negative feelings.”
Diener, E., and Chan, M.Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Appl Psych. 3(1):1–43.
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Exercise Builds the Brain
Since the 1960s scientific research has revealed that adult brain cells can regenerate—a process known as neurogenesis. Suk-Yu Yau of China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan and colleagues have discovered that neurogenesis is linked to the benefits of exercise as a stress reducer.
Inasmuch as previous research has shown that exercise can improve mood and cognition and has demonstrated that a deficit in adult neurogenesis may result in depressive disorders, the team examined the relationship between exercise as a way of combating stress and the possibility that exercise may encourage neurogenesis.
According to the researchers, one important neurogenic “zone” in the adult brain is the hippocampus, an area involved in memory and emotional regulation. The role of new neurons in hippocampal functions is not well defined, but the team reports that recent findings suggest that “hippocampal neurogenesis plays a role in the beneficial effects of exercise in countering stress.”
Yau, S-K., Lau, B. W-M., and So, K-F. (2011). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis: A possible way how physical exercise counteracts stress. Cell Transplant. 20(1):99-111.
—Dr. Bob Goldman
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