Being happy is healthy, and we recently told you about a map that shows where the world’s happiest people live. According to an expert on leisure, “play” is as important to a person’s health as keeping cholesterol levels in check and getting regular exercise. And senior citizens seem to be learning this, because a recent study shows that they are happier than their children and grandchildren.

Dr. E. Christine Moll thinks that leisure is like medicine. She says, “It airs out our brain. It renews our spirit. It gives us clarity of thought. It’s a benefit to our blood pressure. It gives us life satisfaction. For all the dimensions of our lives: our physical, mental, spiritual and cognitive health?leisure time should be a necessity not a luxury.”

She notes that notes that the biggest abusers of the all-work-and-no-play lifestyle are Baby Boomers. “This generation really pushes to gain the American Dream and thinks nothing of putting in long hours or forgoing vacations for only long weekends,” she says. “They often find it hard to put the breaks on, catch their breath and relax.”

So why is Grandpa so happy? Psychologist Stacey Wood says there is evidence that older adults process negative information differently than their younger counterparts. He and Dr. Michael Kisley showed the same negative images (such as dead animals) and positive images (such as bowls of ice cream) to both older and younger adults, while their brain activity was recorded. They discovered that older adults are more likely to be less responsive to negative or unpleasant information.

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