Contrary to popular belief, happiness is anything but fluffy. There is a strong business case for happiness, and scientific evidence proves it matters to organizations, people and communities. In fact, it will be a key ingredient for success in the future of work. Happiness can ebb and flow, but a general sense of wellbeing, satisfaction and fulfillment matter—a lot.
Happiness can be defined in multiple ways: It is joy and a sense of overall wellbeing. It is contentment and a feeling of positive emotions. Of course, no one is happy all the time and levels of happiness rise and fall with circumstances, challenges and context. Consider that all life choices come with pros and cons. Every job has things you love and things you don’t. Partners are a mix of characteristics you appreciate and some that annoy you. Even the region or neighborhood where you live will have positive and negative attributes. But overall happiness occurs when the positive outweighs the negative in a macro sense. The best choices are when you get more of the good and less of the bad over time.
Creating the Conditions for Happiness
You can create the conditions for happiness. Even when situations may seem especially difficult, you can adjust your thinking (“change your mind, change your life”), change your circumstances or opt out of a situation. Empowering yourself to take action, and actively choosing what’s best for you and others make happiness happen.
One researcher finds happiness is based on three ingredients. First, there is a genetic link to happiness and those with a “happiness gene” tend to experience greater happiness. Interestingly, researchers at the University of Oxford found a gene that predisposes people to experience conditions around them more intensely, and this can contribute to happiness as well. But in addition to a genetic component, circumstances contribute to happiness and so do actions. It’s the combination of the three—genes, circumstances and selections—that tend to drive a person’s overall level of happiness. This is good news since our mindset and our choices matter to our sense of joy and contentment. We can create our own happiness.
Evidence of How Happiness Matters
Need proof? There is a broad variety of evidence that happiness matters—to individuals, business and communities.
Happiness is linked with greater health, longevity and wellbeing for individuals. In a study of almost 13,000 people by the University of British Columbia, life satisfaction and happiness are linked to everything from reduced risk of mortality and depression to reductions in chronic pain and physical limitations. In addition, greater life satisfaction tends to result in higher levels of purpose, positivity and mastery. Happiness leads to more happiness and plenty of other goodies as well. Another study by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign followed 5,000 people for 40 years and found those who were happiest enjoyed better health and longer life spans.
Happiness contributes to business success. In another study by Kansas State University, researchers found when people were happier, they demonstrated better decision making and job performance. They also enjoyed higher levels of physical and emotional wellness which reduced costs to businesses. In addition, they were more likely to remain with their employer, thus reducing the costs of turnover. The effects of happiness on these outcomes were true regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, job tenure and educational levels.
Happiness contributes to success in life. Also contributing to business success is the fact that happy people tend to achieve more success in life. Studies at the University of California Riverside found the positive moods of happy people contribute to them working harder toward goals, and learning and capability development. In addition, their confidence, optimism and energy tend to make them more likable which works to their favor in life. Of course, these elements of character and approach make a difference to their employers as well—happy people put in more effort and accomplish positive outcomes.
Happiness contributes to wellbeing and job satisfaction. There is also a relationship between autonomy at work and happiness. According to research by the University of Birmingham, when employees report greater control over their tasks and schedules at work, they also report greater levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction. Work is a part of life and life is part of work—and the conditions of each impact the other.
Happiness at work contributes to happiness at home. There is even more evidence of this reciprocal relationship between positive experiences at work and those in life. Researchers at Kansas State University found when employees are more engaged, invigorated and dedicated at work, the experience spills over to a more joyful home life—and this is good for people and families as well as the organizations to which they contribute.
Happiness contributes to positive outcomes in communities and societies. In addition to the constructive effects of happiness on individuals, home life and business, contentment and satisfaction also matter to communities. Researchers at the University of Leicester produced a sweeping map of countries and compared happiness with country outcomes. They found the countries with the happiest people had the greatest levels of health, wealth (GDP per capita) and educational attainment.
You are empowered and can create the conditions for happiness to flourish. While you can’t change your genes, you can achieve greater happiness by influencing your circumstances and making great choices. Say yes to new opportunities, make contributions to others and work hard toward goals you care about. Achieving happiness is possible through so many avenues. You can find the joy and contentment that matter most.
- Tracy Brower, PhD, author of The Secrets to Happiness at Work