At the stroke of midnight (or as shortly afterwards as possible) each January 1st we endeavor to be the first to wish our family and friends, “Happy New Year!” This year I encourage each of us to really think about what this means and to really mean what you say when you use this greeting.
When people are asked what they wish most for, whether it is for themselves or for their children, they usually reply, “I just want (them) to be happy!” Amazingly enough, the wishes are not for a large flatscreen TV, new model car, or any other material possession. The wish is for something that seems to be completely intangible and yet… is it really?
Recent empirical research shows that happiness has multiple physical and psychological benefits for people, such as:
- Optimistic people are much less likely to die of heart attacks than pessimists, controlling for all known physical risk factors (Giltay et al., 2004).
- People who are happy have stronger immune systems and suffer fewer and/or less severe illnesses than do people who are not as happy (Cohen et al., 2006).
- The pursuit of meaning and engagement are much more predictive of life satisfaction than the pursuit of pleasure (Peterson et al., 2005).
- Economically flourishing corporate teams have a ratio of at least 2.9:1 of positive statements to negative statements in business meetings, whereas stagnating teams have a much lower ratio; flourishing marriages, however, require a ratio of at least 5:1 (Gottman & Levenson, 1999; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).
- Happy teenagers go on to earn substantially more income 15 years later than less happy teenagers, equating for income, grades, and other obvious factors (Diener et al., 2002).
- How people celebrate good events that happen to their spouse is a better predictor of future love and commitment than how they respond to bad events (Gable et al., 2004).
So, this year, when you wish someone, “Happy New Year,” I hope these are some of the things that you are wishing for them!!!