The most important factor determining happiness is our relationship with other people, and this is now proven by scientific research.
Over the past few years, studies have shown that those of us who have a more developed sense of empathy — that is, the ability to see from another’s perspective — feel more happy and experience a higher state of well-being.
All of us are born with empathy. This is evident from studies on babies who have been shown to cry when they hear a sound made by other babies crying, but they almost never cry when they hear a recording of their own cries.
A study reported in the Journal of Science shows how simply performing acts of kindness can make us feel happier. Participants were divided in two groups, and each group was given a chunk of money. The first was requested to spend it on themselves, while the other to spend it as gifts to other people. The result from this study was that those who spent the money on others reported an increase in their happiness levels.
Another study for which 3,000 people participated found that 95% of volunteers reported that after helping others, they experienced what psychologists have termed a “helper’s high”–that is, an increased sense of well-being both on a physical and an emotional level, as well as enhanced energy and serenity.
What these studies point out to is that happiness is derived from giving and helping, not from hoarding and competing. In fact, research has found that that, on average, over 80% of our happiness is derived from friendship, loving relationships, spirituality, health, and work fulfillment, while only 7% is related to the possession of money.
By caring for others, not only do you benefit them, but you also benefit yourself. So whenever possible, extend a hand to those in need and do your part in helping turn the world into a happier and more loving place.