As I’ve studied happiness over the past few years, I’ve learned many things that surprised me. Each day for the next two weeks, I’m going to debunk one “happiness myth” that I believed before I started my happiness project.
Myth #1: People find happy people annoying and stupid.
Wrong. Actually, studies show that people find happy people much more likable than their less-happy peers. Happy people are viewed as friendlier, smarter, warmer, less selfish, more self-confident, and more socially skilled – even more physically attractive.
Instead of finding them annoying, people find happy people attractive. Happy people have more friends and more social support than their less-happy peers. In marriage, they find it easier to get and stay married, and they’re more fulfilled in marriage. At work, they get more assistance from colleagues and supervisors.
It’s true that many people associate happiness with a lack of intellectual rigor. Charles de Gaulle reportedly said, “Happy people are idiots.” Creativity, authenticity, or discernment, some folks argue, is incompatible with the complacency of happiness – if happiness even exists. But although somber, pessimistic people might seem smarter, research shows that happiness and intelligence are essentially unrelated.
For the related myth that happy people are self-absorbed and selfish – stay tuned!
For a fascinating, exhaustive, well-documented exploration of this issue, see Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener’s The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?
I often wonder why happiness has such a bad reputation. It’s more pleasant to be happy, and it’s more pleasant to be around happy people, and it’s more challenging to be happier than to be less happy — why is happiness so often maligned, and seen as lazy and easy?
On her new blog at readersdigest.com, Peggy Northrop wrote about a great idea: after her teenager asked her to stop talking about the economy, she decided to throw a “Cheer Up Already” potluck dinner (people without a job don’t have to bring anything). Science backs up this idea: seeing friends is a great way to boost your mood.
Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you’d like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.