If you think cheerful people have no problems and are annoyingly happy, consider joining them.
Many of us know at least one person who seems to show up for life each day in perpetual good cheer. We may consider them lucky and even resent them. But did you know that anyone can cultivate a spirit of cheerfulness? Not only that but being cheerful can provide tangible benefits that may surprise you. What follows are five facts about cheerfulness that may surprise you.
Cheerfulness improves health and can increase lifespan. Credible research abounds suggesting that optimistic people enjoy a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and declines in lung capacity and function. Optimists are also less likely to die early from cancer and infection. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers studied two large populations: approximately 70,000 women and 1,400 men. For both genders, increased optimism was associated with “exceptional longevity,” which the researchers defined as surviving to age 85.Some studies caution that it is sometimes unclear whether happiness is a leading or lagging indicator. In other words, happiness may not make people healthier and live longer. It could be that people are happier because they are in better health and therefore live longer. Either way, which side of the pessimist / optimist equation would you rather bet on?
Being cheerful can increase your bottom line. Whether you work for yourself or for a company, your frame of mind can improve yours or your company’s bottom line. A 2015 study measured the productivity of happy people. Researchers confirmed that one group of people was happier after showing them a short comedy clip or giving them drinks and snacks. This group and a control group were then asked to complete some timed tasks. Productivity among the happy group was 12 to 20 percent higher than the control group. In general, various studies have demonstrated that positive emotions improve performance.
Cheerfulness can be learned. If you are still stewing over that irrepressibly chipper person at work, the good news is that you too, can increase the amount of cheer in your life. While being cheerful can be an innate characteristic that some people are just born with more of, it is also a skill you can learn. By infusing a few simple habits into your life, you can increase instances of feeling light, bright, and uplifted.
Behavior can cultivate cheerfulness. One surprisingly simple trick to increasing your sunny disposition is to smile more. When you smile, your brain releases dopamine, a hormone which makes you feel happier. This is not to say you should plaster a fake smile on all day. However, even a gentle smile (just upturn the corners of your mouth) can make a difference. Try and conjure genuine feelings of tranquility and ease when you smile to yourself (or at yourself in the mirror) and see if it doesn’t make you feel lighter. Moreover, if you smile at other people, you are much more likely to receive more smiles in return.
Acknowledge unhappiness. This might seem like a strange conclusion for a discussion about cheerfulness. But what do you do when you experience negative emotions? Recognize and allow them to move through you. Be curious about what they feel like, their root cause, and sit with them until they dissipate. Why? Because many of us tend to run from negative emotions or judge ourselves by saying things like “I shouldn’t feel this way”. Or we take the opposite extreme and wallow and ruminate in them. Try allowing your negative feelings to drift through you like clouds across the sky. The more you allow yourself to flow with the experience and treat them with curiosity like an interested observer, the faster you are likely to get past those feelings and back to the possibility of feeling more tranquil.
This article originally appeared as “5 Ways Being Cheerful Will Improve Your Life" in ProfessorsHouse.com.