Don't Worry, Be Happy!

DON’T WORRY. BE HAPPY. ~ Why Happy People are Better Employees and Citizens

Does being happy really matter? And does it positively affect anything other than the happy person? In recent years, society has deemed the concepts of the personal pursuit of happiness and the professional pursuit of success to be mutually exclusive. The world thinks that we must sacrifice one for the other. This could not be further from the truth.

A popular misconception about happiness is that happy people are somehow more likely to be complacent or unproductive. In fact research shows the exact opposite to be true. It is true that happiness makes us feel good, but it also leads to a wide range of benefits for our performance, health, and relationships.[1]

In one study, 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. The people who were primed to feel happy were 11% more productive than their peers, even after controlling for age, IQ and other factors.[2] Similarly, another study at Wharton Business School found that companies with happy team members outperform the stock market year on year[3]. And a team at UCL has discovered that people who are happy as young adults go on to earn more than their peers later in life.[4] It would seem that happiness most certainly has an effect on productivity, wealth and performance in the workplace. And contrary to the commonly held notion that financial success is the key to happiness, the opposite may in fact be true.

Happiness also has a profound affect on society as a whole. Hundreds of studies have found clear evidence that happier people have better overall health and live longer than their less happy peers.[5] Happy people are half as likely to catch the common cold[6] and they have a 50% lower risk of heart attack or stroke.[7] However, the most significant argument for the importance of living a happy and fulfilling life is that those who are happy are more likely to make a positive contribution to society.[8] Happy people participate in public and civic activities more frequently and they have a greater respect for law and order. Not surprisingly, they are also more likely to volunteer their time to help others.

As the scientific evidence has shown, living a happy and fulfilling life is in fact very important, perhaps the most important metric by which we might judge ourselves. The pursuit and attainment of happiness as a measure of societal well-being is not some lofty, naïve ideology held by the narrow minded. It is quite literally written into the US constitution. It’s the very foundation of creating a more productive, healthy and cohesive society. Aristotle said: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” So does this even matter? Yeah…it matters.

[1] http://apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-1316803.pdf
[2] http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows
[3] http://www.businessinsider.com/nber-best-companies-stock-performance-2014-7
[4] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1211/20112012-happy-children-wealthy-adults
[5] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122156.htm
[6] http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/Cohen_et_al_PM_Nov06.pdf
[7] http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/positive-emotions-cardiovascular-health/
[8] https://ideas.repec.org/p/diw/diwsop/diw_sp199.html

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