On friends and happiness

Numerous studies have shown that happiness is not so much an outcome as it is a choice. In other words, if we focus on the things which are good in our lives we are prone to experience more happiness.

Lyubomirsky et. al. (2005) found that on average successful people are happier. This is far from surprising – what is surprising however, is the fact that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. The researchers studied people over time and found that the happier you were, and the more enthusiastic you were about the different areas of your life, the higher the chance that you were going to be successful. What’s even more important, from my perspective is the fact that happier people have more friends, and friendships and connections – more than any other single factor – determines our levels of success in life.

The reasons for this are numerous, chief among them is the fact our social support systems functions as – well – a support system. What this means is that whenever we get into trouble, or start stepping into murky waters, the people around us are there to pull us up and pull us out. What’s more interesting is that numerous studies have found that social relationships are the best predictor of a heightened sense of well being, as well as a lowered sense of stress and depression. With this in mind, it’s clear that if we want to feel better, we need to go out there and make ourselves some friends – or at least interact with other human beings. Humans are a social species and the worst thing we can do is coup ourselves up in a dark room and hope that we can think our way out of a precarious situation.

When the going gets tough, what we need is to surround ourselves with good people. People who understand our situation, and who know how to make us feel better. Usually however, the very act of being there is enough, and this is something we can use the other way around as well – we don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be a good friend – all we need is to open our hearts, minds and ears to the other person and be willing to listen.

A final note on friends and happiness is that the best way to get more good friends is to be a good friend.

If you are genuinely empathetic and caring people will rush to be friends with you, and those skills can be trained. One simple way to raise your level of happiness is to become attentive to other people’s needs and find ways to help others in a way that makes you both feel fulfilled. If you actively look for areas where you can add value to other people’s lives, you are bound to find them. When you do, it is simple to act on them, and when you act on them you are bound to feel increased levels of joy and happiness in your own life.

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