How fruit and veg can make you happier

davanti counselling happy fruit

There is a psychological payoff to eating more healthily. (pic credit: freedigitalphotos.net/nixxphotography)

We’ve all heard about the five-a-day mantra for keeping our bodies healthy. Well, now new research claims that eating more fruit and veg is good for your psychological health too.

In a study involving 12,000 people from 2007 to 2013, scientists at the University of Warwick and the University of Queensland, Australia asked participants to keep a food diary. Their psychological wellbeing was measured too.

The researchers discovered that people’s happiness levels increased within two years of eating more fruit and veg (up to eight portions a day). They said this represented “an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment”.

Happiness increased incrementally the more fruit and vegetables a person consumed. While healthy eating has proven to boost physical health years down the line, the impact on psychological health and happiness could be enjoyed much sooner.

Dr Redzo Mujcic, research fellow at the University of Queensland, added: “Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet. There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables – not just a lower health risk decades later.”

How curiosity can be a curse, according to science

davanti counselling pandora's box

Curiosity can open a Pandora’s Box of difficulties. (copyright Christos Georghiou).

The relentless human desire to know – to satisfy curiosity at all costs – can be more of a curse than a blessing, according to scientists. Whether it’s surreptitiously checking your partner’s phone for signs of infidelity, avidly reading celebrity gossip mags, or hunting people down on social media, too much curiosity can be like opening Pandora’s Box: the urge to do it can outweigh any benefits you might get from knowing, and it can seriously affect your happiness and wellbeing.

Researchers from the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago, and the Wisconsin School of Business have discovered The Pandora Effect: The power and peril of curiosity, published in Psychological Science. They explored what they call the ‘perverse’ side of curiosity to show that it can cause more harm than it’s worth.

The scientists carried out four experiments that exposed people to electric shocks with no apparent benefits, to prove a point that people were driven by “humans’ deep-seated desire to resolve uncertainty, regardless of the harm it may bring”. One experiment involved clicking colour-coded pens, some of which had electric shocks and some didn’t. Where there was uncertainty (not clear which colour pens had batteries) people clicked more of the pens.

The researchers said: “The study suggests that humans possess an inherent desire, independent of consequentialist considerations, to resolve uncertainty; when facing something uncertain and feeling curious, they will act to resolve the uncertainty even if they expect negative consequences. Just as curiosity drove Pandora to open the box despite being warned of its pernicious contents, curiosity can lure humans—like you and me—to seek information with predictably ominous consequences.”

Something to bear in mind before you start secretly stalking your ex on social media. Sometimes, for your own happiness, it may be better just not to know.

Related articles:

Why uncertainty creates the worst kind of stress

Biggest source of employee stress is now knowing what bosses want

Can seeing green boost your happiness?

davanti counselling green grass heart

Seek out scenes of green to soothe your stress. (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Master isolated images)

“When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,

And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;

When the air does laugh with our merry wit,

And the green hill laughs with the noise of it.”

William Blake

The poet William Blake had a strong sense of the power of green for joy and happiness. The colour green is often associated with peace, harmony, growth and balance, and symbolises the colour of the heart. Walking in nature, and enjoying the greenery, is often cited as a natural and effective remedy for alleviating stress and depression.

Yet new research suggests that it’s not just BEING in nature that can help with mood. Even LOOKING at green scenes can help people recover from stress and feel happier.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed the results of research that recorded participants’ stress responses during a series of tasks that asked them to view green and built scenes before and after doing some challenging mental arithmetic.

The researchers concluded: “The findings provide support for greater recovery in participants who viewed green scenes as compared to participants who viewed built scenes. Viewing green scenes may thus be particularly effective in supporting relaxation and recovery after experiencing a stressful period, and thereby could serve as an opportunity for micro-restorative experiences and a promising tool in preventing chronic stress and stress-related diseases.”

So, seek out green if you’ve had a stressful period and would like some respite and recovery.

How your local pub can make you happier

davanti counselling pubs

The friendship and community shared in pubs can boost wellbeing (pic courtesy of dan/freedigitalphotos.net)

If you’ve got a local community pub that you visit regularly for a social pint, you’re more likely to be happier and more trusting than people who don’t have a local. That’s according to research from the University of Oxford (carried out for Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale). While Camra – understandably – would promote research saying pubs are good for you, the findings of the study focus less on drinking beer and more on the emotional and mental wellbeing of people who often pop down their local.

The study was carried out by Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist known for his research into the limit on the number of friends any one person can have (it’s 150, in case you were wondering).

His report, Friends on Tap, says that the more friends you have and the more often you see them, the happier and healthier you’ll be. If you have a local pub and visit it regularly, you’re likely to have a better community network, and feel happier and more fulfilled with your life than, say, someone who might visit a larger pub now and again and who doesn’t know that many people there. People in city centre bars are said to have shorter conversations and feel less engaged with the people they’re out with. The research talks about social drinking, not people who regularly consume vast quantities of alcohol.

Professor Robin Dunbar said: Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and wellbeing. Making and maintaining friendships, however, is something that has to be done face-to-face: the digital world is simply no substitute. Given the increasing tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed accessible venues where people can meet old friends and make new ones becomes ever more necessary.”

Your ‘weekend effect’ could depend on how happy you are in your job

Happiness levels in your job will depict how much you enjoy your weekends (pic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/net/Mr Lightman)

Happiness levels in your job will define how much you enjoy your weekends (pic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/net/Mr Lightman)

Do you live for the weekend, counting down the hours and minutes until clock-out time from work on Friday? Or is the weekend merely a continuation of a socially complete, happy lifestyle? The answer to that will depend on how satisfied you are with your job, how well you get on with your boss, and how much social interaction you have during the week with colleagues and friends outside work.

At least, that’s the conclusion from analysis of the ‘weekend effect’ on seven emotions – happiness, sadness, enjoyment, laughter, worry, anger and stress – of thousands of US workers in the Gallup/Healthways daily poll 2008-2012, carried out by John F. Helliwell and Shun Wang and published in an NBER paper.

They found that while stress levels were lower all round, there was no significant ‘weekend effect’ in terms of happiness or laughter for people who felt satisfied in life and work during the week. Their happiness remained pretty much constant across the span of seven days.

However, there was a marked difference in happiness levels for people who were miserable in their jobs, especially for those with micro-managing bosses and an environment where there was little trust. Their happiness levels were three times higher compared with people who had fulfilling work lives.

If five days out of seven are making you miserable, it could be time to look at why, and what you can do about it. If there’s a payoff for you at weekends, then fine. But if deep down you know you’re not living your potential or achieving what you’d always set out to achieve, then it might be time to explore some options that might just make you happier.

What entrepreneurs can teach us about happiness

Finding your own compass can be key to happiness in life (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici)

Finding your own compass can be key to happiness in life (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici)

Is happiness about following your own way in life? A thought-provoking article by Luke Johnson in the FT suggests it is. If so, then people seeking their purpose and potential in life could learn a lot from entrepreneurs.

People who choose to run their own businesses aren’t just doing it for the money – though that can be a benefit. They’re doing it to make their own choices in life, and to be in charge of their own destiny.

Even though the first years of being an entrepreneur can be tough – financially and personally – running their own show is preferable to being given orders by someone else. They know the link between reward and success, and they work hard to achieve what they really want. They get where they are through their own efforts, rather than jumping through hoops to impress a boss they don’t like to gain a promotion they may not particularly want. Even when they achieve higher status at work, this can bring additional pressures to impress a new boss, who may end up stealing their ideas and leaving the person feeling lost, frustrated and wondering what life is really all about.

If that’s how we’re feeling in life, then perhaps entrepreneurs have a lot to teach us. (more…)

Keep enjoying life to the full if you want to live longer, says report

The mobility of older people is linked to their wellbeing. (pic: istockphoto.com/Lisafx)

The mobility of older people is linked to their wellbeing. (pic: istockphoto.com/Lisafx)

Walking briskly into older age is a key sign of vitality and wellbeing in the over-60s, and improves the odds for living longer. That’s the key finding of a study published by the Canadian Medical Association that researched enjoyment of life and declining physical function among 3,199 men and women aged 60-plus.

Researchers found that people who enjoy life to the full and feel happier are likely to be healthier, fitter and more active. Happier people also walk at a faster pace when they get older compared with people who are unhappy or depressed. Pensioners who felt good about life had fewer problems getting out of bed and getting ready in the mornings. Unhappy people, however, were 80% more likely to have problems with their daily functions, and were twice as likely to suffer from serious illnesses and impaired mobility.

So, putting a spring in your step could lead to a healthier, happier, longer life.