What's So Great About Happiness, Anyway? (The Answer: Plenty!)Here are 14 research-backed reasons why it's totally worth striving for. By June Silny
Who needs another habit to worry about? You barely have enough hours in the day to fit everything in, let alone trying to exercise a couple times a week and sleep 7 hours instead of 5…why add trying to be happier to your to-do list? Well, here are 14 facts about happiness that prove the effort is truly worthwhile.
1. Happy people are more successful.
You might be thinking that success makes you happy, but as reported by psychologists Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener, numerous studies show that happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health. Happiness leads to success—and yes, even a longer life (more on that later!).
2. Happy people get sick less often.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who are happy are less likely to catch colds, while depressed, nervous or angry people are more likely to complain about cold symptoms. The authors report that the happier study participants weren't infected as often, and experienced fewer symptoms even when they did get sick.
3. Happy people have more friends.
Let's face it: Happy people are more fun to be with. Nobody wants to spend too much time around a downer.
And here's why social relationships are so important: Warm, caring friendships provide a stabilizing support system. Good friends are validating, inspiring and motivational. They boost our sense of purpose and belonging, and countless studies have shown that strong social bonds are key to a well-lived life. Not surprisingly, happy people have more friends because they are stable, giving, and supportive.
4. Happy people donate more to charity (and giving money to charity makes you happy, too).
You may have heard that generosity lights up the pleasure and reward regions of the brain. (These are the same areas that light up when humans are exposed to things like art, attractive faces, and cocaine. Science shows that it works both ways: giving to others makes us happier, but happy people also donate more to charity than unhappy people.
Harvard Business School researchers summed it up this way: “Happy people give more, then feel happier, then give more, and so on,” according to the study.
5. Happy people are more helpful.
Similarly, happy people volunteer more. Studies show that happy people are more likely to volunteer, and those who do so tend to become happier. (Another indication of the circular relationship of giving and happiness.)
A happy person is a helpful person. When you're in a positive emotional state, you're better able to help others in need—family, friends, and even strangers—and better able to make a difference in the world.
6. Having a positive attitude makes life easier.
An optimistic outlook eases pain, sadness, and grief. Bad things don’t stop happening, you just deal with them better when you have a positive outlook.
Alice Herz-Sommer, a Holocaust survivor who lived 108 years was asked how she could be happy after living through such tragedy. She replied, "I look for the good. I know there is bad but I look for the good thing." Being able to see the positive (even when things are really tough) is one secret to a happier life.
7. Have a positive influence on your loved ones.
You know those nights when your husband, wife, roommate, or child comes home in a bad mood? The whole house responds to the negative energy. You stand there, and watch the bad mood flow from room to room. The same thing happens with “happy energy.” It’s contagious. We affect one another. So if you want someone else to be happy, express your enthusiasm when you greet them.
8. Happy people enjoy deeper conversations.
Gossip is the conversation of negative thinkers. Dr. Matthias Mehl reported in the journal Psychological Science that happier people had twice as many meaningful conversations as unhappy people.
9. Happy people smile more.
In his viral TED talk Ron Gutman says that “smiling sends signals to the brain of emotional well-being.” It's beneficial to your health—it lowers stress hormones and blood pressure—and may even increase your lifespan. Other studies have found that people who smile frequently are rated higher in generosity, trustworthiness, and extroversion by others.
10. Happy people exercise more and eat more healthily.
You already know that exercise has countless benefits to your health. So where does happiness come in? Research shows that when you're happy, you're more likely to practice good habits like exercising more and eating healthily, which results in greater health and well-being.
11. Happy people are happy with what they have.
Kiss jealousy good-bye! The happiest among us know that envying others is a bad use of their time, and if things don't go their way all the time, that's okay. When you’re happy, you're less likely to stress out about wanting more, being jealous of others, or about trying to keep up with the Joneses. Being happy with what you've got allows you to concentrate on living your own life to the fullest—to live a life that's meaningful to you.
12. Happy people are healthy people.
“There’s a direct link between how we’re feeling and the biological processes which relate to illness and illness risk,” said Dr. Andrew Steptoe, British Heart Foundation professor of psychology at University College London. Steptoe and his colleagues administered laboratory stress tests and standardized mental health questionnaires to more than 200 men and women, aged 45 to 59, and found that people who are in a more positive state of mind have a good chance of experiencing better health in the future.
13. Happy people live longer.
In a study of older British adults published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people who said they were happy (even for a little while), were less likely to die over a five-year period. And the happier they were, the longer they lived. Overall, the results showed that older people who reported feeling happiest had a 35% lower risk of dying during the study than those who were least happy.
14. Happy people are more productive and creative.
Research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and others have shown that people are more creative when they’re experiencing positive emotions. When solving a problem, they come up with more ideas for solutions. People who have positive emotions are also more trusting which allows for more creative and beneficial negotiations. Similarly, a team of economists led by Andrew Oswald of Warwick Business School, reported results of their research suggesting a clear link between a worker’s happiness and productivity. "We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect," the report states.
And here's the best news of all: Whether you're mostly happy or a natural grump, becoming happier is your choice. If you want to be more successful, live longer, and have more friends…why not start building your happiness skills today?
June Silny is a teacher, blogger and author of Mussar. She lives in hot and sunny Miami, Florida with her husband, children and extended family (not all in the same house, but happily, in the same city). Find her on Twitter at @LivingOutLoud_.
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