Does success bring us happiness or is it the other way around? In this chicken or egg debate, we often hear that success hatches happiness. The research revealed that happy people are more successful in marriage and work and enjoy better mental and physical health.
Does success bring us happiness or is it the other way around? In this chicken or egg debate, we often hear that success hatches happiness. Not according to the November 2005 issue of Psychological Bulletin.
Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues at the University of California reviewed 225 studies with a collective 275,000 participants. To ensure their analysis was comprehensive and fair, the researchers examined three types of studies: cross-sectional (at a single period in time), longitudinal (over a longer period of time), and lab-based, experimental research. Happiness was described as frequent positive moods and emotions, and success was defined as meeting goals in love, work, and health. The results are something to smile about.
C'mon, Get Happy
The research revealed that happy people are more successful in marriage and work and enjoy better mental and physical health. People who report feeling satisfied before they get a job are more likely to get interviews. Happily, once they got the job, their performance was rated higher than the performances of their gloomy peers.
Cheerful people are more likely to graduate from college and to attain supervisory positions. This isn't magic Lyubomirsky and colleagues explain that happy workers are less likely to show burnout, display absenteeism, and engage in retaliatory actions.
Happy people are also more likely to get married, stay married longer, and, if they do divorce, to remarry. Happiness seems to attract a partner and maintain the relationship. One study profiled a group of Australians over a period of 15 years: The higher their levels of self-reported happiness, the more likely they were to be married during this time span. Characteristics of happy people smiles and laughter make them appear more friendly and approachable. When a happy person's mood rubs off on us, it's more likely we'll work to stay with them, the research found.
Get Healthy, Too
Happiness also invites health. Lab-based research found that inducing positive moods boosted the immune system. Laughter, which is a companion to contentment, has direct effects on health. A 2001 study in Australian Family Physician found that laughter has a role in stress hormone reduction, mood improvement, creativity enhancement, pain reduction, immunity boosting, and blood pressure reduction.
While happiness can't stop illness, Lyubomirsky and peers conclude that a good mood can bolster a fighting spirit, giving those with serious conditions a stronger resolve to follow a treatment regimen and increase their efforts to overcome illness.
It's hard to accept happiness if we don't like ourselves. Self-esteem is crucial to happiness. In fact, self-esteem is so essential to an inner "good life" that it outranks income or age. Next time you're tempted to dismiss your achievements, remember this and smile.