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Fact
– Checking Happiness Claims Paper

The
purpose of my paper is to critically evaluate a few of the claims made about
happiness by a Buzzfeed article titled “21 Little Ways to be Happier in 2017”
by Anna Borges. This article was published on New Year’s Eve in 2016 to give
readers ideas about how to make changes in the New Year that would increase
their happiness and well – being.  I will
outline the scientific evidence and draw conclusions about the validity of the
claims found in this article.  Some of
the claims in the article that I will evaluate are “Call your person on the
phone more often”, “Find a general practitioner you love if you haven’t
already”, and “Invest in a massage every once and while.”

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The
first claim I will evaluate is “call your person on the phone more often.”  The article goes on to elaborate under this
claim saying that even a short, 5 minute phone call with a parent or close
friend can brighten someone’s day.  Scientific evidence supports
this claim.  In one study, researchers
found that communication quantity was a strong predictor of relationship
satisfaction (Emmers-Sommer, 2004). Individuals were asked to select someone
with whom they had a close relationship with, and report all their interactions
with that person for a week. They reported the frequency (the independent
variable) and length of each interaction. 
They also completed questionnaires at the end of the week that were
composed of rating scales that measured their intimacy levels and relational
satisfaction with their chosen partner (the dependent variable).  Results showed that quantity indicators
explained significant variance in relationship satisfaction and intimacy (Emmers-Sommer,
2014). Although this study does not state happiness as a direct result of
increased communication, evidence from other studies shows that those who tend
to report having satisfying relationships also consistently report greater
health and a heightened sense of well – being 
(Rosan & Bachmann, 2008).  These
studies show that maintaining communication in relationships is an important predictor of
happiness because it predicts relational satisfaction. In another study on friendships and happiness, researchers
aimed to examine whether or not friendships contributed to happiness while
controlling for personality (Demir & Weitikamp, 2007).  The independent variables were friendship
quality and personality, and the dependent variable was happiness.  Friendship quality and personality were
assessed using self -report questionnaires, while happiness was assessed using
a questionnaire where items were rated on a Likert scale.  Results of this study revealed that
friendship quality actually predicted happiness on a much greater scale than
the influence of personality and number of friends (Demir & Weitikamp,
2007).  The scientific evidence I have outlined
supports the claim in the Buzzfeed article by showing that maintaining
closeness in one’s relationships and keeping the quality of these relationships
strong was what benefited people the most. 
So,
calling your “person” on the phone as the article indicates would mean calling
one’s closest or best friend, and keeping this connection strong through phone
communication improves friendship quality, thus improving their happiness.

The second claim I will evaluate is “Find
a general practitioner you love if you haven’t already”.  This claim is expanded on in the article by
saying that having a stable relationship with the professional that an
individual seeks health care from will be beneficial to them.  Many scientific articles have found
supporting evidence regarding the importance of a doctor – patient relationship.   In one qualitative study,
researchers found that positive relationships with clinicians helped
aid patients’ recovery (Green et. al., 2008). In this study, individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder,
affective psychosis, or bipolar disorder participated by completing in-depth
interviews at baseline and paper questionnaires that detailed their personal
and mental health histories.  Researchers
also sought information about
the participant’s relationships with family and friends, current life
circumstances, and about experiences, individuals, and role models that had
been influential in participants’ lives or recovery process. The questionnaires that were
administered to these participants also included quality of life and recovery
assessments and were connected to records of services used over a 12-month
period.   The predictor variable in
this study was the strength of the patient’s relationship with their
clinicians, and the outcome variable was the patient’s recovery and quality of
life.

Analyses
of these data produced a model of the effects of relational continuity and
clinician-patient relationships on recovery and quality of life.  The results of this qualitative data showed
that affirmative and trusting relationships with clinicians that were developed
over time ultimately promoted recovery. When patients had an agreeable “fit”
with their clinicians, this care fostered development of close joint
relationships, superior illness and medication management, and supported
patient-directed decisions (Green et. Al 2008).  Patient’s highly valued clinicians who treated
their patient encounters “like friendships”. Statistical models showed positive
relationships between patient-driven care that was aimed at recovery, and
satisfaction with clinicians, medication satisfaction, and recovery.  So, this positive and favorable relationship
between a general practitioner and his or her patient does ultimately increase
individuals’ happiness by giving them the confidence and tools they need to
lead a healthy lifestyle.

The third claim I will evaluate from this article is “Invest
in a massage every once and while”. The article claims that giving oneself this type of treatment
is great self-care.   Recent empirical research would
support this claim, suggesting that massage
therapy has received support for facilitating growth, reducing pain, increasing
alertness, diminishing depression, and enhancing immune function (Field,
1998).  In a study done on child and
adolescent psychiatric patients, a 30-minute back massage was given
daily for a 5-day period to hospitalized depressed and adjustment disorder
children and adolescents. The control group did not receive back massages and
instead watched relaxing videotapes. The independent variable in this study
was whether or not the participants received the massages or watched the
videotapes.  The dependent variable was
the patient’s anxiety levels post – treatment, which was assessed by measuring
the patient’s saliva cortisol levels after the treatment.  Results revealed that the massaged patients
were less depressed, less anxious, and had lower saliva cortisol levels post
massage. Also, the nurses in the hospital rated the patients as being less
anxious and more cooperative on the final day of the study, and the subject’s
overnight sleep increased over this period as well (Field et. al, 1992). As
seen in this study, massage therapy showed to be effective in reducing
individual’s negative affect by reducing depression and anxiety.  Scientific research shows that less negative
affect is linked to subjective well – being (Meyers & Diener, 1995). In another study done at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, patients
reported symptom severity pre- and post-massage therapy using Likert rating
scales of pain, fatigue, stress, nausea, depression and “other.” Results showed
that symptom severity scores were reduced by almost 50%, even where patients
reported high baseline scores (Cassileth & Vickers, 2004).  So, the Buzzfeed articles suggestion to
invest in a massage every once in a while is scientifically supported by
evidence to increase happiness by reducing depression and anxiety levels.

In
conclusion, the three claims I have evaluated from the Buzzfeed article do show
to have validity.  Calling your person on
the phone more often (maintaining high quality close friendships), finding a
general practitioner you love (building a trustworthy and healthy relationship
with your health care provider), and investing in a massage every once in a
while (exploring the benefits of massage therapy) are all ways that scientific
evidence shows are effective to improve ones happiness, so the Buzzfeed article
does make claims that are useful and are backed by empirical data.

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