Happiness is an age-old and sometimes elusive goal. Virtually all people want to be happy people, which is good, because happy people are better off, for reasons both obvious and subtle. Obviously, it feels good to be happy. But, looking deeper, happy people tend to enjoy benefits that unhappy people don’t, and, thanks to research from the field of positive psychology, we know more about some of these subtle differences.
For one thing, they tend to enjoy more successes in life. You may be thinking that happiness and success go hand-in-hand because success causes happiness, not the other way around. Researchers at the University of California in Riverside thought about this, too. So they set out to test that hypotheses, and found happiness is associated with (and precedes) several successful outcomes, as well as behaviors that go along with success, proving that the relationship goes both ways: Success brings happiness, but happiness actually does bring success, too.
Another benefit that happy people share is good health. Studies have found that happy people experience lower levels of cortisol in their saliva, lower blood pressure, lower ambulatory heart rate in men, and reduced neuroendocrine, inflammatory, and cardiovascular activity. All this leads to greater health, which is definitely something to be happy about!
What Happy People Have In CommonSo, what makes happy people, well, happy people? It seems that happy people tend to have a few things in common. Very happy people are found to be very social, and have stronger romantic and social relationships with others than less-happy people. Research has also found happy people to be energetic, decisive, creative, social, trusting, loving, and responsive. Rather than being strongly linked to external characteristics like socioeconomic status, gender or age, happiness is more positively associated with having a philosophical view of life, using laughter and humor, being able to relate to others, having problem-solving skills, engaging in meaningful pursuits and leisure activities, living in a positive environment, and maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle.
Positive psychology research also illuminates specific activities that can bring feelings of happiness. These include pleasures, gratifications, and flows. (Find out more about each, or read more about positive psychology research, and learn more about specific findings.)
Secrets to Being HappyThere are several routes to happiness. Some are quick and bring immediate positive feelings, and others take more time and bring lasting and repeated feelings of happiness. The following resources bring several strategies from both categories, which can help you become -- and stay -- one of the world’s happy people.
Quiz: How Happy Are You?
Learn if your life has features that are conducive to happiness, and find resources to make positive changes if necessary.
Here are some quick strategies that can help you feel in instant burst of happiness right now.
How To Be Happy
Here are some more long-term strategies for attaining happiness in your life.
Poll: How Happy Are You?
If you’re curious to see how many other readers are or aren’t truly happy, vote in the poll, and check the results!
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Diener E, Seligman ME. Very happy people. Psychological Science. January, 2002.
Lyubomirsky S, King L, Diener E. The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin. November, 2005.
Steptoe A, Wardle J. Positive affect and biological function in everyday life. Neurobiology of Aging. December, 2005.