Many people assume that happiness is the result of something good happening to them in life. I get a promotion, therefore I feel happy. I win the lottery, therefore I feel happy. My spouse loves me, therefore I feel happy.
While this is the reality that many people live in, and while there is some merit to it, the truth is that our brains actually work in the opposite order. Your brain is hardwired to perform significantly better when happy than when unhappy. You’re more creative, you work harder, faster, and more effectively when happy. You tend to see problems and challenges in a different way when happy than when unhappy. And all of that leads to greater success in every area of your life. There’s a wonderful side benefit too – when you’re happy, you’re also more attractive.
True happiness is one of the most attractive things in the world. It’s more attractive than physical appearance, a good smell, a large income, the best car, or any other exterior measure of success. True happiness creates radiance that other people can see. Who would you rather be with – someone who’s enjoying their life no matter what’s going on, or someone who gets thrown into stress or unhappiness every time something doesn’t go their way?
Happiness that comes as the result of another event is often short lived. Even people who win the lottery report that a few months after they win, they feel the same level of happiness that they had before winning. That’s not to say that getting a promotion, or winning the lottery, or having financial security, or having a nice car is in any way bad or shouldn’t be pursued. Quite the contrary – live for your dreams, no matter what they are. But the kind of happiness that most people want to have is the kind that is not dependent on those kinds of things.
Most of the people I work with are unhappy because of the state of their marriage, so telling them to work on being happy is kind of counter-intuitive. They think that if their marriage is better then they’ll be happier, and ask me how they can work on being happier even while their marriage is still rocky.
The answer I give is to start celebrating the successes of their spouse, children, and friends, and to invite others to celebrate their own successes. The happiest people are the ones who are present when things go right for others — and whose own wins are regularly celebrated by their friends as well.
Support for this idea comes from psychologist Shelly Gable, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleagues, whose research revealed that when romantic partners fail to make a big deal out of each other’s success, the couple is more likely to break up. On the flipside, when partners celebrate each other’s accomplishments, they’re more likely to be satisfied and committed to their relationship, enjoying greater love and happiness.
When you learn to celebrate each other’s joys, success, and accomplishments, you’ll begin to see even more connection, love, and passion show up in your romance.