Happiness — A Skill that Can Be Learned
Research has proven that our happiness levels can change significantly over our lifetimes, suggesting that happiness is actually a skill that can be learned.
We don’t really think of happiness as a skill, but everything we’ve learned about the brain suggests that it’s no different than learning to play the violin or learning to engage in a complex sport.If you practice at it, you’ll get better at it. – Richard J. Davidson, neuroscientist and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Davidson has found that mindfulness training for even 2 weeks, for 30 minutes a day, resulted in measurable changes in the brains (neuroplasticity) of the participants, and has suggested that we can promote our happiness by regularly practicing mindfulness.
“Happiness is a skill, but it is a skill that has many components, and each of those components are constructive ways of being, like altruism or benevolence, compassion, inner peace, inner strength, inner freedom.” – Matthieu Ricard, molecular geneticist, author, and a Buddhist monk.
Advantages of Happiness
Why be happy, when I can be normal, or even unhappy? Because happiness has many advantages; a few of them being that happier people:
- live longer on an average, up to 10 years more. [The Nun Study]
- make better and faster decisions. [Journal of Consumer Research]
- have stronger immune systems, and endure pain better. [The Mexican Study]
- are more satisfied with their jobs, are more productive, & earn more. [Harvard Business Review study]
- have less depression and suicide, greater self-control and coping skills.
Marriages are more likely to succeed when a couple experiences 5:1 positive ratio. [The Gottman Institute].
Benefits of Being Happy
Happiness has many benefits. Happy people are way ahead of others, as science has proven. Happier people:
- earn more, get rich more
- are more successful
- are more popular, more loved
- have better relationships
- have more friends, bigger social circle
- have more pleasant and satisfying marriages
- have better physical health
- are mentally stronger, yet calmer
- are kinder and help others more
- are better and more regarded leaders
Happy People Are More Healthy
Jose de Jesus Garcia Vega, Professor of Economics and the Director of the Center of Well-being Studies at University of Monterrey, Mexico, has famously written in in the World Book of Happiness, “It is often said that people spend the best years of their life trying to make money and sacrificing their health and their family, only to spend the rest of their days paying that same money in an attempt to recover their lost health and their estranged family!”
“Healthy people are not happier. The reverse is true: happy people are healthier.” – Heli Koivumaa-Honkanen
Happy People Are More Social
Relationships are of utmost importance for creation of our happiness. When we are socially connected to community, friends and family, we are happier, healthier and live longer.
“My empirical study of well-being among 1,600 Harvard undergraduates found a similar result—social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race. In fact, the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3. The point is, the more social support you have, the happier you are.” – Shawn Achor
Happy People Are More Successful
Success doesn’t make us happy; but being happy makes us successful, as many studies have proved. Happiness also makes you more productive. In fact, people who were primed to feel happy in an experiment by economists at Warwick University were found to be 11% more productive. Companies with happy employees perform better than the stock market index year after year.
Happiness improves your ability to problem-solve. Happy doctors make faster and more accurate diagnoses.
In a 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25 to 74 for 20 years, Dr. Laura Kubzansky, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Society and Health Psychophysiology Laboratory at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that emotional vitality — a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement in life — appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. She has found that optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half.
Happy People Are More Resilient
Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times – but also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, in order to experience the best possible life overall.
Happiness is the most important thing we want for the people we love. We always want our loved ones to be happy, even at the cost of our own happiness. That’s why it matters so much.
Happiness is a skill that can be learned and honed. And it should be learned because it can help you live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.