6 tips to boost happiness, promote healing and let go of anger

Excerpt: Older adults who are chronically angry have higher levels of inflammation and are more likely to develop chronic illnesses. Studies show that letting go of anger and shifting from negative to positive emotions and a positive outlook contribute to happiness and better health. Practicing relaxation techniques, nurturing meaningful relationships, being physically active, doing good things for others and continually learning are keys to happy, healthy living.

When older adults regularly feel angry and hold on to the negative emotion, that contributes to higher levels of inflammation and they are more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes,* reported a 2019 Concordia University study.

While daily feelings of anger can lead to harmful health effects, the researchers emphasize that short-lived anger directed at a passing situation or offense can energize a person to constructive action and solutions.* Letting go of anger and resentment, forgiving, and moving on to more positive emotions and a positive attitude contribute to better physical and mental health,* advises Mayo Clinic.

Happiness & the aging paradox

These findings are consistent with research that suggests older adults are happier because they are better at emotional regulation* and shifting from negative to positive emotions, reported a study in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

The “aging paradox” refers to the initially surprising, but encouraging evidence that, on average, life satisfaction increases with aging. Despite the physical, emotional and cognitive losses that can occur with aging, there are enriching emotional benefits to getting older that boost happiness,* according to a Journal of Clinical Psychology study.

Here are some tips to help you shift gears from negative emotions, such as anger, to a happier, more positive mindset and mood:

  1. Practice relaxation techniques
    To let go of anger, try deep breathing exercises or practice yoga to relax your muscles and feel calm,* advises the American Psychological Association.

  2. Nurture meaningful relationships
    People who maintain good relationships through each stage of life are generally happier and live longer,* according to the 80-year Harvard Study of Adult Development.

  3. Pay attention to the positive
    Older adults notice and remember more positive than negative information than younger adults,* a phenomenon known as the “positivity effect,” according to a Frontiers in Psychology study. A positive attitude is also linked to greater longevity,* reported an International Psychogeriatrics study.

  4. Get moving
    Older adults who participated in an eight-week physical exercise program showed a significant increase in happiness,* compared with those who were less active, according to a Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing study.

  5. Keep learning
    Ongoing, lifelong learning contributes to successful aging, increasing life satisfaction and happiness,* according to a University of Manitoba study.

  6. Do good things for others
    Seniors who volunteer at least two to three hours per week are happier, and enjoy better overall health and longevity,* reported a University of Toronto study.

The following sources provides references for this blog:
1. Psychology and Aging. “Is anger, but not sadness, associated with chronic inflammation and illness in older adulthood?” (2019), online: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/pag-pag0000348.pdf
2. CBC News. “Chronic anger linked to chronic illness in older adults, suggests Montreal-based study.” (2019), online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/chronic-anger-linked-to-chronic-illness-1.5137937
3. Mayo Clinic. “Foregiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness.” (2017), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
4. Association for Psychological Science. “With age comes happiness: Study suggests older adults have better emotional control.” (2011), online: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/with-age-comes-happiness-study-suggests-older-adults-have-better-emotional-control.html
5. Los Angeles Times. “The aging paradox: The older we get, the happier we are.” (2016), online: https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-older-people-happier-20160824-snap-story.html
6. American Psychological Association. “Controlling your anger before it controls you.” (2019), online: https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control
7. The Harvard Gazette. “Good genes are nice, but joy is better.” (2017), online: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
8. Frontiers in Psychology. “The theory behind the age-related positivity effect.” (2012), online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459016/
9. CBC News. “Research suggests positive attitude may be secret to long life.” (2018), online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/long-life-study-1.4561100
10. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. “Effects of physical exercise programme on happiness among older people.” (2014), online: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jpm.12168
11. University of Manitoba. “Lifelong learning as a source of well-being and successful aging.” (2014), online: http://www.eswbrg.org/uploads/1/2/8/9/12899389/lifelong_learning_borges__roger.pdf
12. CTV News. “Volunteer work makes older adults happier, healthier: study.” (2014), online: https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/volunteer-work-makes-older-adults-happier-healthier-study-1.1986738