Often we live our lives based on the assumption that success leads to happiness. How many times have you exerted yourself beyond measure hoping to finally get fulfillment? I bet a lot. I know that I have. But have you ever questioned the validity of this axiom? Have you ever considered that chasing success to get happiness could be putting the cart before the horse?
I experienced a major 'Aha' moment when I realised that just the opposite is true. Happiness leads to success.
For me, this happened a few years ago when I read Shawn Achor's - The Happiness Advantage. Attempting to summarise this masterpiece on happiness is beyond the scope of this article. What is important is that the book presents decades of rigorous and conclusive research. The takeaway is:
Happiness is a key predictor of success in all major areas of life.
Here is what you must know:
Happiness means superior health.
A critical mass of research demonstrates that happiness and good health go hand-in-hand.
1) Happiness is good for the heart.
Studies have found that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. It is also related to a healthier heart rate variability. (This is another measure of heart health).
In long-term studies, people who demonstrated more positive emotions were less likely to suffer from heart disease.
2) Happiness equals stronger immune system.
Can you recall that grumpy person that is always ill? It may be no coincidence. In a clinical study, participants with the most positive emotions were less likely to develop a cold after exposure.
Graduates who rated themselves as happiest were twice as likely to have a high antibody response following a vaccine. This was another demonstration of superior immune function, in another study.
An earlier experiment showed that our immune activity goes up or down depending on our moods. On days when we are happier our immune system works better.
3) Happiness helps us deal with stress.
Stress affects us both on an emotional and on a physical level. Happiness seems to prevent the negative biological effects of stress.
The happiest people had 23% lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with the least happy people. In the same study, the most positive people also had 12 times lower bad blood-clotting protein after stress.
In another study, psychology students were subject to a high-pressure, stressful situation involving videotaping while working on arduous questions. Again, the happiest among them recovered physically most quickly from the stress.
4) Joyful people experience fewer aches and pains.
People who reported the highest levels of positivity demonstrated a reduction of symptoms such as muscle strain, dizziness, and heartburn. They got better while their unhappy counterparts got worse, over the course of the 5-week study.
Positive emotions also mitigate the effects of chronic pain. Women with arthritis who rated themselves as happiest were less likely to experience an increase in pain, over the course of the study.
5) Happiness helps us overcome disease and disability.
Happiness leads to improvements with long-term conditions as well.
In a massive study of 10,000 Australians, those who were happy and satisfied 'most of the time' were 1.5 times less likely to have a long-term health condition. Another study showed a relationship between the absence of positive emotions and breast cancer.
In the elderly, self-esteem, hope, happiness and joy help preserve physical strength, endurance, and balance. Happier people of age are also less likely to have a stroke.
6) Happiness leads to longevity.
Longevity is most likely the best indicator of health. In a famous long-term study of catholic nuns, the happiest lived 7-10 years longer than the least happy.
This effect is not constrained to monastic life. In a study of English 50+ adults, the happier were 35% less likely to die within the next 5 years.
Doctors even suggest that happiness improves the chances of surviving cancer.
Happiness leads to business and financial success.
Our brains work significantly better when 'fueled' with positive emotions.
1) All business and educational outcomes improve when we embrace positivity.
Sales rise by 37%, productivity by 31%, and task accuracy by 31% according to a decade of research. Companies which promoted happiness saw 24% improvement in employee job and life satisfaction.
2) Happy people earn more.
Happiness leads to greater wealth and studies support this. Adolescents and young adults who are more satisfied with life earn more later in life.
Happy people are more optimistic and expose themselves to more opportunities. They take on risk and challenges with confidence and reap the rewards.
Happy people have fewer sick days. Happiness improves not only the number of days we are in the office but also their quality.
Happy people are more effective. Economic professors demonstrated that positive individuals had up to 12% greater productivity than those who are not.
Happy people usually get better performance reviews. Happiness spreads across people. So, its gifts come back to you in the form of positive feedback from clients, colleagues and bosses.
Have you noticed how positive people hardly ever dwell on problems? As soon ad they identify the challenge they move to seeking a way to overcome it. This solution-driven approach is invaluable in the workplace.
Finally, happy people have an attitude of continuous improvement. They have high self-esteem and are committed to getting better every day.
Happiness improves our relationships.
A scientific paper called "Very Happy People" reports the impact of positive emotions on our interactions with others. The people who were consistently happiest were more sociable and had stronger romantic and other social relationships.
Here, it is important to emphasise that the reverse is also true. Relationships make us happier. And according to a 75-year study, relationships are the key to a good life.
Happy teams perform better.
Employee well-being drives profits, period. Happy people are by and large more creative and more productive, according to Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert.
When people work with a positive mindset performance improves on nearly every level. The happiness that results from success is fleeting, the success that results from happiness is consistent. People who are positive perform better in all circumstances.
Happiness has countless benefits but here are a few more.
An important distinction!
'Happiness' and 'positivity' have nothing to do with ignoring reality, in my vocabulary. On the contrary, a happy person has an accurate perception of things as they are. They are objective and precise because their judgment is not clouded by negativity.
A positive person doesn't dramatise a situation. Instead, they proceed to resolution with clarity and confidence.
Happiness is the fundamental pre-requisite for success in all major areas of life. Being positive makes us more healthy, wealthy, effective, and connected. This is true in all meanings of these words and in all contexts. Happy people are grounded in reality and act with clarity and objectivity.
This article tells you 'why' happiness plays a prominent role in your life. In future articles, I will share 'how' you can cultivate and nurture your own happiness. The more your positivity grows, the more you can share it with the world, the more it grows again by being magnified ...
You know you deserve even more happiness. Get in touch, so you and I can make it happen.
Martin Stefanov Petkov
Master your Super Power