Recently in my reading, I have found several interesting things about the pursuit of individual happiness in life and health.
A few interesting observations:
The average lottery winner is less happy than the average person, and the average person surviving a life-threatening illness is happier (many are willing to try this one on for happiness).
People moving into environments where they don't feel that there are others like them feel less happy and more isolated. Environments where one feels they fit in seems to be important in happiness.
Communities where there is a large spread in wealth, interestingly, both the rich and the poor are less happy and less successful than in places where wealth is more evenly distributed.
When following a group of highly successful students at Harvard (including John F Kennedy), the single best predictor of future happiness is one's ability to deal with failure/challenge positively and learn/grow.
Darwin said, it is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survives, but it is the one most adaptable to change.
Elizabeth Blackwell, who won the Nobel prize for understanding the genetic marker of aging (telomere length) and Elissa Eppel, found that people feeling chronically stressed aged faster than their neighbors.
This was the first scientifically validated study showing chronic stress accelerated aging. Interestingly, subsequent work showed that people under the same stress, but who approached this stressful environment with gratitude, did not suffer the aging effects. Thus, it is not the stress we are under that matters, but it is how we see it.
When we are around people that make us happy, we end up in synchrony with them - body movements, EEGs (brain waves), heart rates. Connecting makes a big difference.
Two well done longevity studies show that connection is important - connection to people and to purpose are key predictors of long and successful life.
People who survive catastrophic life-threatening events (falling out of planes, being stranded on the ocean, prisoner of war) almost always have deep gratitude as a common experience.
I think this evidence shows that we have the ability to define our own health and happiness in WV and strangely, may be set up better than anyone else.
We have more consistency in wealth. We have longitudinal communities that still remain. We have overcome many challenges and are doing this again today.
We are surrounded by great beauty and more and more, people are seeing gratitude as a way of life. Early days, but changing our mindset from scarcity to abundance is a central opportunity for our state.
If we bridge this chasm, one that almost everyone in every town and state is subject to, then we can go first and change the world.