Eating fruits and vegetables and exercising lead to a happier life

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Making daily life choices that provide long-term, non-immediate benefits rather than those that provide instant satisfaction lead to a happier life, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of Kent and the University of Reading in the UK looked into how delayed gratification and daily life choices could impact a person’s happiness.   

They found decisions that required instant happiness hurt a person overall while making decisions that may not be as fun in the present but build towards future health led to more happiness.

For example, regularly exercising or eating a healthier diet may not be as instantly satisfying as other choices, but are more beneficial to happiness overall. 

The research adds to a wealth of studies that show a healthier lifestyle leads to a more fulfilling life.

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Researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Happiness Studies, gathered data from as far back as 2009, and more than 14,000 UK residents were included. 

‘Little attention has been paid to the impact of these changes on individual wellbeing,’ the team wrote.

‘In particular, should these changes be seen as giving up current pleasures and therefore reducing well-being or as giving us a greater sense of purpose and therefore making us feel more satisfied with our life?

‘There has been an increasing push towards veganism and vegetarianism and there has been a shift towards the use of cycles, walking etc., largely because of environmental concerns.’

Participants were surveyed on their day-to-day life choices, including what they ate and the activities they took part in.

They were also asked about their mental state, and how happy they felt at the time.

Finally, they were given questions that allowed the researchers to understand how much control people believed they had over their own lives.  

The team found that people with higher incomes are more likely to make healthier decisions like eating fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly.

There was also a link between making these healthier lifestyle choices and feeling like one had more control over their life and, by virtue, feeling happier with their life choices. 

‘Behavioral nudges that help the planning self to reinforce long-term objectives are likely to be especially helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle,’ Dr Adelina Gschwandtner, a researcher from the University of Kent who led the study, said in a statement

‘If a better lifestyle not only makes us healthier but also happier, then it is a clear win-win situation.’ 

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The researchers believe that more people are starting to realize simple changes in their lives that can lead to more happiness as well.

‘There has been a bigger shift in recent years for healthier lifestyle choices,’ said Professor Uma Kambhampati, a researcher from the University of Reading, said in a statement.

‘To establish that eating more fruit and vegetables and exercising can increase happiness as well as offer health benefits is a major development.’

There has been a variety of previous research that finds a positive correlation between eating a healthy diet and being happier.

Similar studies also exist linking regular exercise with a healthier lifestyle. 

The English researchers note, however, that those studies just show a correlation, while this study establishes causality through the concept of delayed gratification.   

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