It’s official: happiness is good for your career, and your career can make you happy.

In today’s business world, driven by competitive advantage, success and wealth, happiness can easily be relegated to a wishful aspiration. But as we look for ways to succeed, one psychologist believes the ancient goal of happiness can bring us not only personal well-being but career prosperity.

Dr Martyn Newman, consulting psychologist for Randstad, says three decades of research has established clear links between specific emotional skills and our health, wealth and well-being. 

“We have found high levels of emotional capital lead to increased productivity, and as many studies show, happy people are more creative, solve problems better and more quickly, live longer and enjoy high levels of leadership influence. When people feel better they perform better.”

But how can we feel happier more of the time? Three big findings have emerged from research into happiness and they may surprise you. 

1. it’s not all about your environment

Outward conditions such as wealth, high IQ or being in a committed relationship account for no more than 10 to 15 percent of the factors that contribute to satisfaction.

2. it’s not all in your genes

Although there is some level of genetic predisposition for happiness, our future life satisfaction is not set in stone. Genes influence such traits as having a positive, easygoing personality; dealing well with stress; and feeling low levels of anxiety and depression. 

However, a systematic study of 4000 sets of twins concluded that only about half of life satisfaction comes from genetic programming. 

“This means that half of our future happiness rests in our own hands,” says Dr Newman, author of Emotional Capitalists – The New Leaders (John Wiley) and the Emotional Capital Inventory – the first scientifically designed tool for measuring emotional intelligence and leadership.

“We are neither at the mercy of our moods nor our environment, but rather our emotional well-being is more in our control that we ever imagined,” he says.

3. we can control our happiness!

The way we live and think, how we perceive life’s events, and how we react to them can exert considerable influence on our happiness. “We can take the edge off negative feelings by directly awakening positive feelings. 

We often have more freedom than we realise to improve our perception of a situation – even when we can’t directly change the situation itself.” 

Another surprising discovery from brain research is that the adult brain continues to develop and change. 

“These changes are triggered by thoughts, but even more by emotions,” says Newman. Just as we can learn a new sports skill, we can train our natural aptitude for positive feelings and increase our capacity for emotional wealth.

Using optimism as a strategy can also be an effective way of dealing with difficulties and sensing opportunities. If we give in to negative emotions like disappointment or sadness, we not only fail to ease them, but we actually reinforce them. 

“Repeated emotions like joy or sadness act like drops of water on a rock. Each one evaporates quickly, but over time many drops carve out a channel. Fortunately, it is not only negative emotions that can become entrenched with regular use – optimism, too, can become a habit.”

Loving what you do is a necessary condition to maintaining your emotional well-being, according to Newman.

Passionate people spend twice as much time thinking about what they’ve accomplished, how achievable the task ahead is, and how capable they are of achieving it. 

The most fundamental finding from the science of happiness is that almost everyone feels happier when they're with other people, especially when they are contributing to others. 

“Practicing kindness, compassion and other virtues lifts your stocks of emotional capital. Giving makes you feel good about yourself and it creates meaning in your life,” says Newman. 

4. happiness makes you more effective and enables peace of mind. 

When your mind is peaceful your mood lifts, you take in information effectively and your mind becomes agile and creative. A consistently positive mood also enables you to foster positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need – the perfect recipe for career success.