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What The Nuns Study can tell us about happiness

Coach Susan Thomson by Susan Thomson
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Here is a story aimed to help you defrazzle. That is get rid of that frazzled feeling experienced by many of us in today’s hectic world. When I was 9 I wanted to be a nun when I grew up.

I think it might have been around the time that Jesus of Nazareth was shown on television.

Wearing the habit and being peaceful and doing good things for others appealed I think.

The fact it might be difficult since I was brought up Church of Scotland didn’t crossed my mind.

Anyway, I didn’t become a nun, but I was thinking of nuns today after something I read. Something I thought was worth sharing with you.

There is something called ‘The Nuns Study’.

This is a longitudinal study involving 180 young novices, average age of 22, who entered their convent in 1930 in the United States.

Before they joined the convent they were asked by the Mother Superior to write a short autobiographic sketch of around 200 to 300 words.

Their writing was analysed by researchers for positive, negative and neutral terms, in order to establish which of them had a positive mental outlook on life.

A strong link was found between being optimistic and living longer.

In addition, the more positive nuns were less likely to display signs of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

The study has been influential for the discipline of positive psychology since it provides evidence that positivity has an influence on the health and wellness and length of life of everyone.

So how can we create a positive mental outlook, even when life isn’t always going really well?

How about:

Start your day on a positive note - choose your favourite music to listen to while you get ready

Practice gratitude - try keeping a journal, or before you go to sleep think of three things you are grateful for that day

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