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Happiness Study

December 15, 2015

You might have seen in the news lately a large study that showed that “happiness” did not predict future mortality rates, and many people concluded from this that our thoughts have no effect on our health.  (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151210031212.htm)  Nothing could be further from the truth!  In this study, we see an overly-broad word being applied–one that could conceivably incorporate many different types of health-supporting or health-damaging emotions–and the researchers then making large sweeping conclusions based off of that fact.

For example, one of the “happiest” times of my life, in terms of shear enjoyment in the moment, might have been that year I spent the entire summer literally on the couch, with the shades drawn, watching satellite TV and drinking huge bottles of Sunkist and eating all manner of junk food, with no physical activity to speak of–other than going to the fridge to get more food.  What a great time for  me as a child!  But it was also probably the least healthiest time of my life, one filled with nothing but negative-Bach states of mind and numerous health problems.  If someone in a similar position had been included in the study, their report of happiness would include some seriously unhealthy physical conditions, the direct result of the very things that caused that “happiness” in the first place.  Conversely, when I was dieting and exercising later on in my life, it was certainly tough work and difficult (and seemingly thankless at times), and I wasn’t necessarily “happy” about all that work and effort, but I was certainly healthier.

Dr. Bach discovered there were 38 specific types of thoughts that damage our health and, conversely, 38 types of outlooks that support our health.  When viewed in those terms it becomes easy to see how by using the word “happiness” as a measure, it is far too easy for researchers to reach the false conclusion that the mind has no real effect of our health–since it isn’t nearly a specific-enough indicator, and can easily incorporate negative-Bach states of mind under the label “happiness”–i.e. negative-Chicory selfishness and attention seeking behavior (which can become addictive and highly enjoyable when being validated by others, but could still negatively affect our health).  Similarly, greedy/negative-Holly-like materialism can also be personally satisfying (even thrilling) while in that mode, leading us to feel a form of “happiness”, though it could still be destructive to our long term health and (possibly) longevity, and is certainly damaging to others overall.

By grouping negative-Bach states of mind under the heading of happiness–and possibly positive-Bach states of mind such as positive-Agrimony under the heading of unhappiness (since it can be painful in the moment to dig through painful memories and experiences, even if long term it leads to real and greater happiness)–it’s no surprise that the results of this particular study sort of canceled each other out and no real result could be found in terms of our thoughts affecting our health or longevity–because the very thoughts that lead to health or disease had been lumped together on both sides of the aisle, in terms of happiness and unhappiness, skewing the results.

By narrowing in on the specific Bach states of mind, positive and negative, clearer results could conceivably be obtained by researchers in this case (and others).  But the statement that our health is not in the least dependent on our thoughts is certainly incorrect, as a large body of scientific evidence (i.e. the effects of the stress response; psychoneuroimmunological research showing an effect on our immune system based on certain emotions, such as anger; and the effect of loneliness on the expression of our DNA) shows that our mind can and does directly affect our health, and vice versa.

This is one of those cases of the media running with a story without really examining the study itself, or the design flaws inherent in the study, that would then lead to overly-broad conclusions being drawn from it.  If anything, this study only shows that the word “happiness” is too broad a label to apply when it comes to determining which thoughts affect our health!

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