If you are a regular follower you may have noticed I have been away for a while. Now that didn’t make me happy! but the reason for the absence certainly did. I was engaging in passionate pursuits of the academic kind. More on this another time but needless to say I was working in flow, with a passion and loving it. According to experts this tends to make us happier.
The UN recognizes March 20 as the International Day of Happiness, noting the need to shift the economic paradigm to incorporate social well-being and happiness. The UN resolution states that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and “the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples”.
It’s no longer enough to use financial statistics like GDP as an accurate measure of the wealth and prosperity of a nations citizens. Measures of individual or societal wellbeing are considered as, if not more, important and many counties have begun to incorporate subjective well-being in their economic measures. In 2013 the OECD issued guidelines to encourage member nations to move toward recognizing happiness as a valid measure. Economically this is important because once counties start to measure wellbeing, quality of life, and life satisfaction, the kinds of things that contribute to these measures may be identified and can be incorporated into policy.
Benefits of being happy
Economics aside, extensive research into the field of ‘happiness’ and ‘flourishing’ has shown consistently time and time again, the same positive outcomes.
- The happier you are the better health outcomes you will have; you will have a stronger immune system; you will exercise more, you will live longer…good to know?
- Social connections and relationship research also clearly shows that happier people are more socially connected (not through social media, but in a real way…person to person), and they are more likely to be altruistic and kind.
“good mood makes people more altruistic; altruism makes people feel good” Ed Diener
- And of course there is the question of how you are at work. Happier people are more productive, better workers and will more likely help others at work. It’s hard to think that employers wouldn’t agree, but now researchers at the University of Warwick have shown that happier employees are about 12% more productive. Skeptics of such work should also note that this randomly controlled study of 700 participants who were real workers (not university students) was conducted by economists not psychologists, with the authors of the report suggesting that it is high time economists paid attention to “emotional well-being as a causal force”.
Happiness = Love
The one area that interests me the most and is especially relevant this Mother’s Day weekend is that happiness is love. The research tells us that the better our relationships, the happier we are. Our relationships are long term, they form our eudaimonic well-being, our human desire to seek meaning beyond immediate self-gratification (hedonic well-being). According to George Valliant, a pioneer in the study of adult development, the long-term (75 years) Grant Study shows that “by far the most important influence on a flourishing life is love” , and goes on to add that “happiness is the cart; love is the horse.”
I experienced this first hand last week as we spent a week with my sister and her family and my parents and to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary….a true love story. Not always a smooth journey, but a committed one that sees them very much in love, happy in their retirement and even happier with all their family around them. The special bond both my parents have with their grand-daughter was wonderful to see, more so because living in Hong Kong I don’t see how this relationship has blossomed over the 5 short years since my niece came into our lives. There is no doubt that the love in this relationship has made both grandparents happier as they age, and in many ways younger.
So as many celebrate Mother’s Day all over the world, remember that love and relationships make you happier (not things), and the happier you are the more you will love and appreciate your relationships.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mother’s in my life and to mothers all over the world.