Happiness, rather than working hard, is the key to success, according to research published yesterday.
Cheerful people are more likely to try new things and challenge themselves, which reinforces positive emotion and leads to success in work, good relationships and strong health, say psychologists.
The findings suggest that happiness is not a "feel-good" luxury, but is essential to people's well-being. What is more, happiness can also extend across an entire nation, with people in "happy" nations being more likely to help others.
The link between happiness and success was investigated by a team from the University of California Riverside, led by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky.
First, they analyzed questionnaires that ask people about multiple aspects of their lives. "For example, they show that happy people tend to earn higher incomes," said Lyubomirsky. Having established the link, they wanted to discover the cause.
"Almost always it has been assumed that things that correlate with happiness are the causes of happiness, but it could be just the opposite that those things tend to be caused by happiness," said Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, another author on the paper.
Other studies revealed that having a sunny outlook on life appeared to precede good fortune.
"There was strong evidence that happiness leads people to be more sociable and more generous, more productive at work, to make more money, and to have stronger immune systems," said Lyubomirsky.
Meanwhile, experimental studies showed that an instant injection of high-spirits could generate success. "Inducing a happy effect leads people to make more money in a computer simulation."
The research shows that while success can put a spring in someone's step, people need happiness in the first place to achieve success.
According to the study, around 4 out of 5 people in modern industrialized nations are happy at any one time.
Success was not just about earning lots of money. "We define success as obtaining the things that culture or society values, whether it be friends, close family, money and income, or longevity," said Diener.
However, sorrowful people are not condemned to a life of failure.
"Our work suggests that sad people should try to increase the frequency of positive emotions in their lives by doing things that make them feel happy, even temporarily," said Lyubomirsky, whose research is published in the Psychological Bulletin.
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But there is a caveat: your happiness boosters should not be dangerous, like driving fast, or counter-productive, like eating lots of chocolate.