A lively social life
According to experts, companionship and social support are vital to both our psychological and physical well-being - one reason, perhaps, why married people tend to live longer than unmarried ones. Modern researchers emphasise the value of group social activities in this respect. 'Relationships we form at church or in clubs tend to be more supportive and uncritical than those we form at work or in the family,1 says Professor Michael Argyle, of Oxford Brookes University, 'and these positive relationships improve our self-esteem, which is vital to our physical and mental health. This is backed up by recent research which shows, perhaps surprisingly, that people who spend more time with others actually get fewer colds and viruses than those who stay at home on their own. In fact social support is so important to our mental and physical well-being that it may even increase our life expectancy! Another piece of research found that people who belong to strong church groups, not only claim to be happier than those who don't, they suffer from less than half the number of heart attacks than the rest of the population, and live up to four years longer!
Watching soap operas on TV
One rather surprising piece of research found that on average, people who regularly watch soaps on television are significantly happier than those who don't! Psychologists believe that this is because such programmes provide viewers withan imaginary set of friends, and a sense of belonging to a community, in the same way that a club or a church might.
Many scientists these days believe that indulging in life's little pleasures - a bar of chocolate, a glass of wine, a shopping trip, even a cigarette - can actually improve your health, because of the psychological lift it gives you. There is evidence, for example,' says Professor David War burton of Reading University, 'that old people living in residential homes who have a cocktail hour each day actually live longer! Indulging - in moderation - in the small pleasures of life can make people calmer, alleviate stress and provide positive health benefits. There is a lot of truth in the
old saying that "a little of what you fancy does you good."
And some that can make you feel worse
Feeling like an underdog, it seems, can damage your health. Research by the National Rheumatism and Arthritis Council showed that workers who feel undervalued or out of control at work, are significantly more likely to suffer from back problems. Depression, a spokesman claimed, is actually far more likely to cause backache than heavy lifting. Professor Warburton of Reading University believes that one of the greatest health threats comes from negative feelings such as depression or guilt, which create stress hormones, producing cholesterol.’ It's quite likely that by worrying about whether or not you should be eating a chocolate bar you are doing yourself more harm than just getting on and eating it,’ says the professor!