We all have that one co-worker, friend, or neighbor who is constantly (and maybe even annoyingly) happy.  And while some believe that people are just born optimists, recent exciting studies have shown that happiness is learned-much like crocheting or table tennis. A study conducted at Wake Forest University asked a group of 50 students to force themselves to act like extroverts, even if they had to fake. By the end of the exercise the vast majority of the participants felt genuinely happier.

What's more, studies conducted Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego found that happiness, like misery, likes company.  Their research shows that simply know someone who is happy makes you 15 percent more likely to be happy yourself.

Do Happy People Really Live Longer?

The bottom line: happiness is not only influenced by the actions and choices we make but also by the people who surround us.  So do happy people really live longer? Recent research says yes. An article published in the Journal of Happiness Studies states that leading an overall happy life helps protect the body against illness, thus prolonging life.

Although it may seem unfair that those overly happy types live longer, the truth is in the physiology. Researchers at University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health found that happiness improves overall body function. Those who are chronically ill tempered tend to have higher stress levels and increased heart rates. The study also found that cortisol levels were up to 32 percent lower in individuals who claimed to lead happy lifestyles. Cortisol, known as the "stress" hormone, is released by the brain and increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and reduces immune function. In the end, those who are full of joy also lead fuller lives.

Good Medicine

Understandably, perpetual happiness is not easy to acquire. There are bills to be paid, families to take care of, and friends to please. Life is rarely easy; so it can be difficult to always find the greener grass. Here, some tips on how to move your life in the positive direction.

  • Love yourself.  It's true that the first step to happiness is boosting your own self esteem. Happiness starts within yourself and moves outward-not the other way around. Focus on your positive traits rather than negative. Find something you did well each day and record it. This way, even the most seemingly insignificant moment is documented and highlighted.
  • Surround yourself. As we've found out earlier, our happiness is directly effected by those around us. Assess your friends honestly. Those who make you feel better are always worth keeping. However, those toxic friends, no matter how long they've been in your life, may be weighing your happiness down.
  • Push yourself.  A sunny disposition won't come tomorrow. It takes work. The more you practice looking at the bright side of things, pointing out the best in yourself, and find the good qualities of others the quicker you'll reap the benefits of a happy lifestyle.