Is happiness a feeling? Or a state of being? Philosophers, psychologists, spiritual leaders, and others have discussed the definition for thousands of years. Safety, contentment, and success are all aligned with happiness, but what makes one person happy may not work for someone else. Though we may never reach a definitive answer about the nature of happiness, there is no questioning its importance. Here are 10 reasons why:
#1 Happiness reduces stress
When people get stressed, their levels of the hormone cortisol go up. Cortisol is an important part of our chemical makeup, but in high amounts, it causes health problems. These include high blood pressure, muscle weakness, and mood swings. On the other hand, studies show that when you’re happy, those levels go down. If you have a stressful lifestyle, make time for things that make you happy.
#2 Happiness is tied to better heart health
There have been several studies showing a link between happiness and a healthier heart. It could lower your risk of heart disease by 13-26%. In 2005, a paper showed that happiness is a predictor for lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate. Happiness even benefits people who already have heart problems. In 2008, researchers studied 76 patients with suspected coronary artery disease. On the days when patients rated themselves as “happy,” their tests revealed healthier patterns of heart rate variability.
#3 Happiness can boost your immune system
Could being happy build a resistance to disease? There’s evidence that unhappiness and negative emotions can harm your health. It’s harder to study whether happiness has a positive effect on the immune system. There is some research. In one study, 350 volunteers were exposed to the cold virus. Over the next two weeks, they recorded their positive emotions. Those who had the most positive emotions were less likely to get sick.
#4 Happiness extends your life
It makes sense that if happiness is good for your health, it extends your life. In a famous 2001 study, researchers found a connection between the life expectancy of Catholic nuns and the emotions they recorded when they first entered the convent. Those who seemed the happiest based on their decades-old writing lived 7-10 years longer than the unhappier nuns. A more recent, 5-year long study showed that older people who expressed happiness on a typical day were 35% less likely to die during the study.
#5 Happiness and better relationships are related
Relationships with friends and family are vital to the human experience. In one study, the top 10% happiest college students enjoyed better relationships. They experienced less jealousy and had closer bonds with their family. This results in even more happiness, so it’s a cycle.
#6 Happy people have better marriages
Studies show a powerful link between happiness and satisfaction in a marriage. People who express more happiness are more likely to be content with their partner. Like good relationships with family and friends, happiness and a good marriage fuel each other.
#7 Happiness increases productivity at work
Based on research, happy employees take fewer days off work, use fewer sick days, and can be 12% more productive. Happy people are also better at problem-solving, which is a vital skill in a workplace. This data proves how important it is for companies to invest in their employees’ happiness. It’s good for business.
#8 Happiness makes you more creative
Happy people are not only more productive, but they’re also more creative. Studies show a connection between positive thinking and an openness to new ideas and experiences. Dr. Shelley Carson, a creativity researcher, says that as someone’s mood becomes more positive, they’re able to see more possible solutions to creative problems. This goes against the “tortured artist” trope. While the artistic community tends to have higher rates of mental illness like depression, there’s little evidence that unhappiness is what fuels creativity.
#9 Happy people see the sunny side of things
Research suggests that happy people are naturally more optimistic. They are more likely to have a positive perspective on things and less likely to get pulled into minor disagreements. For better or worse, happy people tend to see the best in people, as well as the sunny side of all situations. They’re less sceptical or suspicious.
#10 Happiness makes you more generous
In a study published by the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers asked one half of a 51-person group to remember the last time they spent $20 or $100 on something they wanted. The other half thought about when they last spent that much on someone else. They wrote down how they felt. Researchers then gave money to everyone, telling them to spend it on themselves or others based on what would make them happier. The results showed that people felt happier when they recalled buying something for someone else. They were more likely to spend their new cash on someone else, generating more happiness.