People who are more happy experience 23% less stress, 39% better health, 31% more productivity, and 34% more positive social interactions. That’s the summary claim supported by several years of so-called “happiness research.” I just discovered this body of research, and it’s pretty exciting.
You might think, “Of course I’d be happy if I had less stress, better health, and positive social interactions.” But that’s just the opposite of what this research shows. It’s the order of things that becomes important. It’s not that success creates happiness. Rather, happiness leads to success! Happiness comes first, and the less stress, better health, increased productivity, and more positive social interactions follow as a result.
Happiness in this research does not simply mean “superficial pleasure.” It has much more to do with joy and meaning. Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) has studied happiness levels among people in over 45 countries, from wall-street executives to displaced farmers in Zimbabwe. What was amazing is that he found no significant difference in happiness based on people’s external circumstances – rich or poor, healthy or sick, young or old. The “outside world” in which one finds oneself only explains 10% of how happy someone is.