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Happy, Healthy Holidays: Four surprising ways to help improve your health

As we head into the holiday season, you may be thinking about how you’re going to stick to your diet or exercise regimen in the coming months. That’s a worthy aim—it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet and move your body regularly—but there’s more to health than diet and exercise. Plenty of other habits and behaviors also contribute to physical health and longevity, including four that may surprise you.

  1. Happiness—defined by some researchers as appreciation of one’s life—may help you live longer.For example, research shows that happy people tend to take better care of themselves and, therefore, engage in behaviors that benefit longevity. And on the flip side, there’s no question that being chronically unhappy can be unhealthy—activating the fight-or-flight response and therefore increasing blood pressure and lowering the body’s ability to fight off illness.
  2. Gratitude may also contribute to one’s health, with research indicating that grateful people are in better physical and psychological health, and are more willing to seek help when health issues arise.
  3. Social support—from friends and family—is another contributor to both physical and mental health, while lack of social support and social isolation can lead to poor health and shorter life expectancy. For example, social support can help buffer stress.
  4. Laughter, yet another contributor to good health, can arise frequently when you’re surrounded by friends and family. Laughter has been shown to help combat stress through helpful physical changes in your body – like increasing endorphins released by the brain, enhancing oxygen intake, and supporting muscle relaxation