Why is happiness important? What does scientific research tell us about advantages of happiness?
Science says happier people are more successful and more productive. They are kinder and altruistic, physically healthier and mentally stronger. Studies show they have better relationships and marriages.
What Do You Benefit By Being Happy
Why be happy, when I can be normal, or even unhappy?
Because happiness has many advantages. Science shows, happiness has multiple benefits. Happy people are way ahead of others in many positive aspects, as science has proven over the last 20 years.
A few of the benefits that happier people have are:
- live longer on an average, up to 10 years more. [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, and earn more. [Harvard Business Review]
- have less depression and suicide, greater self-control and coping skills.
- marriages are more likely to succeed when couples experience 5:1 positive ratio. [The Gottman Institute].
Soon in this post, we’ll discuss five of these happiness advantages in more detail. First, let’s find out if we can teach ourselves to be happier.
Is Happiness A Learnable Skill
What’s a skill? A skill is your ability to do something well. It’s an ability you develop through practice or experience.
Now, is happiness a skill? Can we teach ourselves to be happier as we can after learning any other skill? Is it something that you learn to do well with practice?
Science says yes; happiness is a learnable skill.
You can learn to be happy. You can teach yourself and others to be happier.
[Check out our definitive and authoritative post: How To Be Happy In A Day?]
Research shows our happiness levels can change notably over our lifetimes, and that suggests happiness may be a skill that can be learned over the years.
Everything we’ve learned about the brain suggests that it’s (i.e., happiness is) 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 of the participants. This ability of the brain to change its form and function is called neuroplasticity.
He suggests, therefore, that we can raise our happiness levels by regular practice of 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 Happier People
1. Happy People Healthier
Happy people have better physical health and report fewer unpleasant physical symptoms. They have fewer emergency room and hospital visits, make fewer calls to the doctor, use less medication, and have fewer work absences. They also experience less pain.
Happy people have better mental health than their less happy social group members. They have fewer symptoms of mental diseases, such as hypochondriasis, schizophrenia, social phobia, anxiety, or depression. Happy people are also less likely to report a history of drug abuse.
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!
Heli Koivumaa-Honkanen, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital, Finland, whose research found dissatisfaction in life is linked to higher risk of death in disease, says:
Healthy people are not happier. The reverse is true: happy people are healthier.
2. Happy People Have Better Relationships And Marriages
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.
Happy people have more friends and better social support, and are more satisfied with their friends and their activities together.
In one study, the top ten-percent happiest college students have been found to have high-quality relationships. They have been found to be less jealous and to have stronger contacts with their family members.
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 also happen to have more fulfilling marriages.
They tend to be more satisfied within their marriages. Researchers have found that there is indeed a very strong relationship between happiness and satisfaction with marriage and family.
Happy people who are either married or in committed relationships more often describe their partner as being their “great love” than their less happy friends.
3. Happy People Are More Prosocial
Happy people are more prosocial, that is they seem more inclined to help others. Happy people volunteer at higher levels than their unhappy friends and colleagues for charity and community service groups, as religious, political, health-related, and educational organizations.Happy people have modest and realistic levels of expectation and aspirations. Click To Tweet
Have you heard of a thing called Facebook envy? It’s when you have negative feelings after scrolling through your friends’ social media life. If you’re troubled by that, even occasionally, then check out how to get over it.
4. 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, Laura Kubzansky, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found emotional vitality — a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement in life — appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women.
Kubzansky found that optimism cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by half. She wrote in her paper:
Findings suggest that individuals with higher levels of emotional vitality had reduced risk of developing CHD during a 15-year follow-up period. Further analyses indicated that one mechanism underlying this relationship may be health behaviors.
Greater emotional vitality was significantly associated with less smoking, higher alcohol consumption, and more physical activity; after including these behaviors in the models, the relationship between emotional vitality and incident CHD was attenuated.
However, the association remained significant after controlling for these behaviors as well as a history of psychological problems, use of psychotropic medications, current depressive symptoms, and other covariates.
Now, you might be wondering if hope and optimism are the same thing or different items in psychology? Find your answers here: Hope vs Optimism.
5. 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.
Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hardships. The resilient people not only recover, but also often find meaning in those bad times and their harsh experiences, and grow afterwards.
Research has found higher levels of resilience are linked to lower levels of psychological distress.
Another research found psychological resilience may be a resource to increase life-satisfaction and happiness, and reduce psychological distress, in chronically ill patients.
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.
Happiness is the most important thing we want for the people we love. We always want our loved ones to be happy, sometimes even at the cost of our own happiness.
In closing, let’s ask: Is it easier to cry in a BMW than on a bicycle?
Find out how you could make yourself happier with these 20 Scientific Ways To Find Happiness Today (click the link or the pic below):
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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