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Happiness Comes First, Success Follows

Happy People May Be More Successful

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 19, 2005 -- Happiness may breed success rather than the other way around, according to a new study.

Researchers found happy people are generally successful in relationships, work, and health; this success is more often than not a result of their positive emotions rather than vice versa.

In a review of 225 studies on happiness and success, researchers found happy individuals are predisposed to seek out and undertake new goals in life, which often brings them more happiness as well as success in many aspects of their lives.

"This may be because happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to be more likely to work actively toward new goals and build new resources," says researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, of the University of California, Riverside, in a news release. "When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable. Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions."

Happiness May Spur Success

In their review, published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers looked at the links between desirable characteristics, life successes and well-being in more than 275,000 people.

They analyzed information from three different types of studies, including:

  • Studies that looked at happiness and success across different groups of studies.
  • Studies that followed happiness and success over time to answer questions such as, "Does happiness precede success?"
  • Studies that tested whether certain variables produce success or happiness.

The results of all three types of studies suggest that happiness leads to behaviors that often lead to further success in work, relationships, and health and that this success stems from these positive feelings.

Researchers found happy people benefit from several characteristics that make them prone to success, such as:

  • A positive perception of themselves and others
  • Creativity
  • Highly social behavior
  • A strong immune system
  • Effective coping skills

Researchers say previous research has assumed that happiness flowed from success and accomplishments in life, but this study suggests that isn't always the case.

"Our review provides strong support that happiness, in many cases, leads to successful outcomes, rather than merely following from them," says Lyubomirsky, "and happy individuals are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life."

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