Why is happiness important? In fact, why should anyone be happy? Money solves most of our issues and lets us buy food and shelter, and stuff like cars, trophy wives, and exotic vacations. Isn’t that happiness enough — our ability to afford things we want and need with more money?
Haven’t you heard of this: Money can’t buy happiness, but isn’t it better to cry in a BMW?
That BMW quip has a fascinating backstory. It’s the true story of Ma Nuo, the girl who convinced the world that crying inside a BMW feels better. We’ll come to it in a little while.
7 Reasons Why Is Happiness Important
Here are seven reasons why we need to be happy in our lives: 1. Happier people earn more, 2. Happier people get more success, 3. They help others more, 4. They are more resilient, 5. Happier people have better health, 6. They have better marriages, and 7. Happier people have better relationships.
Research shows that happiness is more important than money and success in letting us live more fulfilling lives, that is, meaningful lives that we are proud to have lived when we approach our death. You might be thinking at this point: “I have all I need in life—money, property, relationships, comforts, and even things of luxury. What is wrong with having only those?”
- “Why does happiness matter?”
- “What extra do I get being happier?”
- “Why is it important to be happier in my life?”
Well, this research shows that happier people are more successful across many areas of life—marriage, friendship, income, work, charity, and health. Let’s dive in.
1. Happier People Earn More
Do happy people earn more? Yes. Researchers have found people who are happier with their lives also have higher incomes and more material wealth. They also found people having more money have higher overall life satisfaction.
According to the United Nations World Happiness Survey, 2015, a person’s income is the #1 predictor of their happiness.
According to Cornell University economics professor Robert Frank, increasing yearly income is the most significant way to increase happiness.
A study from Purdue University in 2018 found while an annual income of $60,000 to $75,000 is the right for day-to-day emotional well-being, but for authentic life satisfaction, the ideal income is $95,000.
However, this association is not a straight line. Up to a point, more money may bring more life satisfaction. People with little money felt happier with increased income. An increased income improved their life satisfaction, even after it took care of their basic needs.
But, as income increases, the impact of money on happiness flattens out and even goes down. Wealthy people are not always happy.
2. Get More Success
Do happy people get more success? Yes. Success does not make us happy; rather, being happy makes us successful (find out why), as many studies have proved.
Happier people are more likely to ace job interviews and secure better jobs. They are evaluated more positively by superiors on a job, show higher performance and productivity, and handle managerial position jobs better.
Happiness also makes you more productive and improves your ability to problem-solve. In fact, economists at Warwick University found people primed to feel happy in an experiment turned out to be 11% more productive.
In a job, a person who is happy is more likely to succeed better. They are also less likely to show disruptive behavior and work burnout.
A study by Forbes shows happy employees call in sick 66% less.
Its main author, Laura Kubzansky, Director of the Society and Health Psychophysiology Laboratory at Harvard, found that emotional vitality appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
[Emotional vitality = a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement in life]
3. Help Others More
Do happy people help others more? Yes. Happy people seem more inclined to help others, or as scientists would call them, are more prosocial.
Happy people volunteer more often than their unhappy friends and colleagues for charity and community service groups, such as religious, political, health-related, and educational organizations.
Our overall well-being has a direct correlation with helping others with our time, money, or other resources to a cause we feel passionate about. Studies suggest people who volunteer to help have better health and more happiness than those who do not.
According to a study in Social Science & Medicine, a person who volunteers more than once a month, but less than once a week, is 12% more likely to report being very happy. A person who volunteers weekly is 16% more likely to report they are very happy.
4. Are More Resilient
Are happy people more resilient? Yes. The people who are happier are more gritty and resilient. They bounce back from misfortunes and hard times faster and emerge stronger.
Resilience is our “bouncing back” capacity. It defines how fast and how well we can recover from our difficulties. Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times—but also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, to experience the best possible life overall.
To be happier, learn how to pick yourself up after a fall, come back strong after a failure, let go of negative feelings people heap on you, and find the resilience to come back stronger.
5. Have Better Health
Do happy people have better health? Yes. Happy people have better physical health and report fewer unpleasant physical symptoms.
The happier people visit the emergency room and hospitals less frequently, make fewer calls to the doctor, use less medication, and have a lesser number of work absences. They also experience less pain.
Happier people are mentally healthier than their less happy social group members. They have fewer symptoms of mental diseases, such as hypochondriasis, schizophrenia, social phobia, anxiety, or depression. Happier people are also less likely to report a history of drug abuse.
Healthy people are not happier. The reverse is true: happy people are healthier.— Heli Koivumaa-Honkanen, Life Satisfaction and Suicide: A 20-Year Follow-Up Study
Happiness not only feels good, but it also comes first. If you are happy, you are more likely to start and stick to a healthy exercise habit. And in return, exercise makes us happier.
6. Have Better Marriages
Do happy people have better marriages? Yes. Happy people have more fulfilling marriages. They tend to find more satisfaction in their marriages.
Researchers have found that there is indeed a strong relationship between happiness and satisfaction with marriage and family.
Happier people, who are either married or in committed relationships, more often describe their partner as their “great love” than their less happy friends.
Waite and Gallagher in their book The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially suggest happiness or life satisfaction of married individuals is higher because spouses provide emotional support and a sense of a greater purpose or meaning to life.
The marriage partnership allows for economic and emotional specialization. It also provides easy access to an available partner.
7. Have Better Relationships
Do happy people have better relationships? Yes. Many researchers have proven relationships are the single most important factor responsible for the survival of the human species.
Happier people have more friends and better social support, and also, they are more satisfied with their friends and their group activities.
The top 10% of the happiest college students, in a study, were found to have high-quality relationships. The happiest students were less jealous and had stronger contact 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, positive psychology advocate who has lectured at over a third of the Fortune 100 companies
What Matters For Happiness
The following extract from the peer-reviewed research article The Keys To Happiness is significantly relevant:
Studies have shown that prioritizing time more highly than money is positively associated with happiness. Individuals may choose to allocate more of their time to making money, but often do so at the expense of neglecting social relationships (spending time with family, friends, and the community).
It has been discussed that prioritizing time over money is beneficial for happiness because it can improve the quality of social relationships.
Prioritizing social relationships, including family, friends, and neighbors, was associated with a greater likelihood of happiness, whereas prioritizing extrinsic achievements, such as money and power, or physical self (i.e., health) was adversely associated with happiness.
Respondents prioritizing religion (spirituality) were most likely to report happiness, whereas respondents prioritizing extrinsic achievements were the least likely.
It is likely that people who consider extrinsic achievements as the most important thing in life are less likely to be satisfied with their current achievements and less likely to invest in social relationships, such as family and friends.
Now, Ma Nuo’s story.
Is It Really Better To Cry In A BMW?
In March 2010, on the popular Chinese matchmaking show Feicheng Wurao (If You Are The One), a jobless suitor asked an 18-year-old Ma Nuo if she would go on a date to “ride a bicycle with him.”
Her reply came swift and sharp and made her an overnight sensation. Ma Nuo said:
I would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle.
The incident sparked a debate over whether a woman could openly suggest that a man’s worth is solely a measure of his financial status.
Many believe Ma Nuo gave the world its best definition of materialism in a memorable sentence. Materialism is an ideology that says material success and progress are the highest values in life, and physical things are more essential than spiritual or intellectual things.
Now, if we look deeper, we find a niggling question underneath that aphorism:
Is it really joyful to cry in a BMW?
After all, the slogan of the company is: Joy is BMW.
So, the question is: Is it really painless and joyful to cry in a BMW, a Mercedes, or an Audi?
When you try to think what is wrong with that, it might lead you to the root question behind that: Why do you need to cry when you are inside a BMW?
You do so because the pains and trials that bring out your tears do not care where you’re placed in life. You can have all the luxuries that anybody could afford and still have moments of pain and tears.
The rich and the famous cry. The strong and the influential cry. Their tears may not always show, but they also cry—even if on the inside. That is the authenticity of life.
Coming back to the question, she might have a river of tears dammed inside her, but she does not want the world to see her cry.
She wants the fortress of a shiny car to tell the world she is doing great, while she weeps inside, safely hidden.
The trials of life make you cry do not care where you stay, in a villa, or in a shanty.
[BMW is short for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the German company producing luxury vehicles.]
Is happiness actually important?
Research shows that happiness is associated with higher income, better relationships, less stress, healthier eating, more exercise, more helpfulness, and more mental resilience. Happy people are healthier and live longer. They also contribute more to society.
How does happiness affect our life?
Happiness protects us from strokes and heart disease, stress and insomnia, obesity and high blood pressure, laziness, and weariness. Overall, happiness makes us feel better, live longer, and lead healthier lives. People who are happier are also more charitable and altruistic.
So, do we need to have happiness in our lives? Short answer: Yes. Science shows, that being happy is a high-priority business in life. You need happiness in your life for more than just feeling good.
Another thing: 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 taking pain ourselves. But you cannot show them your happiest side unless you are happy yourself.
A book to read: 10 Keys to Happier Living by Vanessa King, who draws on scientific studies to present us with a set of 10 practical exercises to increase our happiness. Two of her striking suggestions are to be comfortable with who we are and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
One last thing we would add here: You can be happy without trying to be perfect at it.
• • •
If you want to explore further, here are the money secrets from science!
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
√ If you liked it, please spread the word.