How to be happy – 5. Spread it around

Lesson: Happiness makes you – well, nicer

Strategy 4 looked at the range of benefits associated with happiness. But the perks aren’t just for you. The 293-study meta-analysis from Strategy 4 also revealed benefits for your relationships and the people around you.

These findings came from the experimental studies, where good feelings were created artificially – for instance, by asking people to recall a pleasant memory or showing them a cheerful film. It seems being happy itself caused people to be more sociable and altruistic, to like others more, and to be better at resolving conflict.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Happiness can make you more altruistic.
Happy people tend to do good things for others. Raising your own happiness can give you the desire and motivation to improve other people’s lives – whether at home or in the larger world.

2. Happiness leads you to like people (including yourself) more.
Happiness can make you more open, sociable, and able to enjoy others. Just imagine the difference being happy can make to a person’s home, work and social life.

3. Happiness improves your conflict resolution skills.
Disagreements can be stressful for everyone. Having a happier outlook can help you keep your head and calm things down when problems arise.

Happiness strategy: Spread it around

Some people find the idea of focusing on their own happiness selfish.

The world is full of tragedies – war, global warming, poverty, inequality, violence, to name a few – why should we be happy?

Closer to home there are the stresses of work, family, and sometimes difficult trials to navigate. Amid all the pressure, how can you justify thinking about your own happiness?

It seems that, just by being a happy person, you can benefit the world you live in – by being kinder to others, spreading more joy and helping to manage conflict. In fact, happiness is so important at a society level that some researchers think it should join economic and social indicators in measuring quality of life.

So you can feel good about choosing to be happy. You can enjoy knowing you’re likely to have more to give, and more desire to do so. Doesn’t that seem a better approach than staying unhappy?

Research sources:

Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Lucas, R. E. (2003). Personality, culture, and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 403-425.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803-855.

How to be happy:
101 practical strategies drawn from positive psychology.

This post is part of a series covering simple, practical, research-inspired, happiness strategies you can use in your own life. For more information about the series, check out the 101 Happiness Strategies main page.

Image by angela7dreams under Creative Commons.

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