If you’re like me, you answered the questions from January’s article and you declared: “I want to be happier,” but have you thought about why?

After years of contemplating this question I have come up with the following conclusion: there are many advantages to happiness. Happiness is a major factor in success, it enhances our relationships, it leads to behavior change (like quitting smoking), and it can make one healthier overall.

On Success: This is one of my favorite; studies show that only 25% of our successes are predicted based on our intelligence and technical skills! Yahoo! The remaining 75% is based on three other characteristics: 1) our optimism, 2) our social connections; and 3) the way we perceive stress. By the way, these three core characteristics are also what make us happy (I’ll share more about this later). When you are in a negative state of mind, you are at the bottom of your potential raise your happiness and your intelligence improves as well! Here’s some cool facts: happy people are 40% more likely to receive a promotion, 31% more productive, and six times more engaged.

On Relationships: This one is a bit like the chicken and egg conundrum: happy people tend to have robust relationships and people with robust relationships tend to be happier. Happy people, for the most part, are more forgiving, charitable, and have better self-control. These characteristics lead to better relationships. Here’s another interesting fact: happiness is contagious (so is negativity). It’s a scientific fact. Wouldn’t you rather hang out with happy people?

Regardless of which comes first, social connections are central to happiness.

On behavior change: Studies show that people who practice small positive actions on a regular basis are more apt to realize that their behavior matters. One research study showed that a group of people who incorporated a 2-minute positive habit, such as a daily gratitude journal, increased their likelihood of stopping smoking dramatically.

Yes! By incorporating small “happiness habits” into our daily lives we will not only increase our happiness but we will also move more easily from information to transformation. With this, we can tip this world from negativity, stress and uncertainty to a world that believes that our behavior matters!

On health: Happiness is connected with many physical health benefits: lower blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke, lower stress, a stronger immune system, fewer fatigue symptoms, and even a longer life! Get this, happy people are 39% more likely to live to the age of 94!

Seriously, with all of these advantages why wouldn’t you take getting happier seriously?

So what “makes” us happy? According to happiness researchers the keys to our happiness lay in: 1) our social connections; 2) our optimism, the belief that our behavior matters; and 3) the way we perceive stress. I’ll share more about this in future columns.

I’ll leave you with this: I’m not saying that it’s not OK to be sad; in fact, there are many reasons to feel that way. What I am trying to say is this: we can feel sad while also feeling a core sense of happiness - thus receiving all of the benefits listed above.

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