Are our lives just long pursuits of happiness? Does happiness even matter? Some say there are far more important things to worry about while others see happiness as indispensably important and something that everyone ultimately wants to find in life.
Why does happiness matter?
Happiness is not about hiding from and/or denying the reality of negative emotions or pretending to feel joyful all day, every day. We all meet tough times sometimes and it’s totally natural for us to feel angry, sad, frustrated and other negative emotions as a result of these adversities.
To suggest otherwise would be to deny part of the human condition and is more or less delusional. Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times – but also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, such that overall we get to live our best possible life.
One common fallacy about happiness is that happy people are somehow more likely to be lazy or ineffective. In fact research shows the opposite is true: happiness doesn’t just feel good, it actually leads to a wide range of benefits for our performance at work, metal and physical health, relationships, etc.
For example, economists at Warwick University showed different groups of people either a positive film clip or a neutral film clip and then asked them to carry out standard workplace tasks under paid conditions. Those primed to feel happy were found to be 11% more productive than their peers.
Similarly, researchers at Wharton Business School found that companies with happy employees consistently outperform the stock market year on year and happiness has also been found to be strongly connected to people developing better decision-making skills and improved creativity capabilities.
So, rather than success being the secret of happiness, research shows that happiness could in fact be the key to success. However, it doesn’t just help us function better as individuals in our jobs and personal lives: happiness has also been found to remarkably improve our society as a whole.
Happier people are also less likely to engage in risky behaviour – for example, they are more likely to wear seat belts and less likely to be involved in road accidents. They have even been found to be more financially responsible, tending to save more and have more control over their expenditures.
So happiness does matter – the scientific evidence is compelling. There is even evidence that happiness is contagious, so that happier people help others around them to become happier too.
In an extensive study in the British Medical Journal researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego followed people over a period of 20 years and discovered that “clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals” and that the happiness of single individuals affects even those they don’t know… through three degrees of separation!
That means that if you are happy, not only does it make your friends happier, it also makes their friends happier and their friends’ friends happier, too!
So, far from being a selfish thing, the pursuit of your own happiness can be seen as a generous public service – and perhaps even a civic duty of sorts – to increase the happiness of society as a whole.
The secret of happiness is gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of noticing and appreciating the good things in the world, particularly in your own personal life. Shifting the focus from what you don’t have to what you do have can have a profound influence on your moment-to-moment mood and emotional state, and it can have a huge impact on your physical health, as well. Giving thanks can literally make you feel much better.
The secret of happiness may be as simple as thanking people. Gratitude is humbling, and shows appreciation. True gratitude can bring you joy, and make you feel happy that you have been blessed with whatever you’re grateful for.
Recent research shows that a daily gratitude practice can lead to increased concentration, enthusiasm, optimism and satisfaction — not to mention improved sleep quality and a greater sense of connection to others.
Ways to show gratitude to others
Gratitude sounds like an easy concept and it is, but unfortunately today’s super immersive world can easily distract us from what we already have and keep us chasing the next win forever.
The key is to slow down, look around you and pay more attention. There is a lot to be grateful for in the people we interact with every day and below are some ways to show that gratitude effectively.
Write them some love
Telling someone what you love or admire about them in a written form can make their day. Knowing that someone took time out of their day to compose words of affirmation for you is very touching.
Give lots of hugs
Hugs have been found to decrease stress levels in both people partaking – what a great natural stress reliever. You don’t have to walk around with a ‘free hugs’ sign but you should give more hugs.
Do someone a favor
Simple favors such as running errands can go a long way in showing others that you care about them. We rarely forget those little acts of service that people do for us when they lend a helping hand.
Be a cheerleader if the person is questioning their ability to achieve. Positivity can be super contagious and when someone is going through some self-doubt that is exactly what you need to be spreading.
Give a genuine compliment
If someone looks good or you appreciate how they influence in your life, tell them exactly that. It’s amazing how far a simple genuine compliment can go as far as making someone’s day or entire week.
Share your skills
Offer up your talents such as photography and writing for friends who need them when they need them, for example if a friend who is struggling with unemployment needs help compiling their CV.
Celebrate their achievements
When something wonderful happens for someone else, be happy for them and genuinely join their joy. We are primed to remember good memories more so it’s important to be a part of them for people.
Tip well for service
Make sure to tip extra for great service from barbers, waiters and other service professionals. Extra income is always welcome and it also makes them feel good that you acknowledged their efforts.
Be fully present
Giving others our full attention and presence when we are with them is one of the greatest gifts we can give. It shows that we respect and care for them enough to give them our undivided attention.
If someone is going through a hard time, let them know you are there for them. Sometimes just knowing that others are thinking of us and are there with an open ear if we want to talk about it is all we need.
Gratitude is one of the main ingredients in the secret of happiness. Happiness matters, more than we care to admit. It’s important to your physical and mental health, your resiliency in the face of obstacles and crises, and above all, your happiness is important to the happiness of the world at large.
Your personal happiness is important to the happy quotient of the entire world.