Why Happiness Is Important to Well-being
Topophilia is a strong emotional pull to a special place. Research says that people experience intense feelings of well-being, contentment, and belonging from places that evoke positive memories far more than treasured objects such as photographs or wedding rings.
Why is contentment important to our well-being? Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times – but also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, in order to experience the best possible overall life. Happiness actually leads to a wide range of benefits for our performance, health, relationships, and more.
Economists at Warwick University in the UK showed different groups of people either a positive film clip or a neutral film clip and then asked them to do their regular daily work tasks. The people who were primed to feel happy were 11% more productive than their peers, even after controlling for age, IQ, and other factors. Similarly, other studies show that happy employees outperform the stock market year over year and people who are happy as young adults go on to earn more than their peers later in life. In education, schools that focus on children’s social and emotional well-being experience significant gains in academic achievement as well as improvements in behavior. Happiness has also been linked to better decision-making and improved creativity.
Being happy also has societal benefits. Did you know that happier people are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to wear seatbelts, respect the law, and volunteer?
This matters right now because we, as a nation, have become substantially richer over the decades, but no happier. The positive benefits of higher incomes have been undermined by rising inequality and falling levels of trust and social cohesion. We’ve also reached the point where mental health is one of our greatest social challenges – causing more of the suffering in our society than either unemployment or poverty. Low wages, income inequality, and repression of women and minorities all contribute to less happiness overall among Americans.
So happiness does matter! The pursuit of happiness is not some fluffy nice-to-have luxury; it’s about helping people live better lives and creating a society that is more productive, healthy, and cohesive.