Are Happy People Really Healthier and More Productive?

Ross Quade | General, Health | 10 Nov, 2014 | No Comments

Happy is loaded word. Often, when you meet people, they ask how you are doing. Most give the general answer of “fine” without expanding on whether they are happy, sad or indifferent. Yet, truly happy people seem to rise above such a question. Even if they say, “fine” you already know the answer. They are happy.

Looking deeper into the benefits of positivity, one question arises: “Are happy people really healthier and more productive?”

3 Different Kinds of Happiness

American psychologist and educator, Martin Seligman, also known as “The Father of Positive Psychology” claims that, “60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us.”

He goes on to describe three different kinds of happiness.

  • The Pleasant Life – Filling your life with as many pleasures as you can.

  • The Life of Engagement – Finding life in your work, parenting, love and leisure.

  • The Meaningful Life – This “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”

These theories of different kinds of happiness simply create a template to determine where one may fit in and how it affects their health and productivity. Sometimes, however, living any one of these ‘kinds of happiness’ in excess can simply become the façade that masks unhappiness. Therefore, it is the “action is louder than words” theory that might be applied here as well.

Happy People Rise Above Negativity

Productivity and health have something in common: they both suffer if used or applied in a negative light. Happy people rise above negativity and even though some may call them a Pollyanna (someone who thinks good things will always happen), fake or ignorant, when one is happy, one is productive as well as healthier.

A study by researchers Professor Andrew Oswald, Dr Eugenio Proto and Dr Daniel Sgroi at Germany’s University of Warwick found positive results from four combined studies on the effects of happy people.

Dr. Proto comments,

“We have shown that happier subjects are more productive, the same pattern appears in four different experiments. This research will provide some guidance for management in all kinds of organizations, they should strive to make their workplaces emotionally healthy for their workforce.”

Motoring On

When it comes to health, looking at life through rose colored glasses may be the best approach. Happy people sometimes get lost in what is called “flow”. This is when one is so immersed in what they’re doing, they lose all track of time making them come across as ‘ditzy,’ selfish or inconsiderate.

However, it is their ‘content-ness’ that puts them in the flow which some studies claim increases cognitive (brain) functioning, self-esteem and a perpetuation for more happiness. Add in exercise  and happier people can become even happier as this increases endorphins (natural pain relievers),  encourages positive feelings, improves energy, and minimizes negative feelings. This is also true for laughter.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) conducted a study on the enjoyment of life amongst the elderly. Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, lead author Professor Andrew Steptoe, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health comments,

“The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age,”

He continues,

“They are less likely to develop impairments in daily activities such as dressing or getting in or out of bed, and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less.” Whether old or young it’s a positive outlook that begets a positive path.

Follow a Key

Harvard School of Public Health published a small key on taking an inventory of your happiness, stating that,

“Research suggests that certain personal attributes—whether inborn or shaped by positive life circumstances—help some people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression.”

These include:

  • Emotional vitality – A sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement

  • Optimism – The perspective that good things will happen, and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur in life

  • Supportive networks of family and friends

  • Being good at “self-regulation – Bouncing back from stressful challenges; choosing healthy behaviors; avoiding risky behaviors.

Harvard Business Review goes on to offer a few tools on how you may want to turn your happiness up a notch:

  • Jot down three things they were grateful for.

  • Write a positive message to someone in their social support network.

  • Meditate at their desk for two minutes.

  • Exercise for 10 minutes.

  • Take two minutes to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours.

Are happy people really healthier and more productive? Scientific evidence suggests so. So what are you going to do about it?

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