“We become more successful when we are happier and more positive.” – Shawn Achor.
This may sound like a cliched statement at first – but it’s every bit grounded in reality as it is in the realm of wishful thinking. A growing body of studies provides enough empirical evidence to suggest a correlation between happiness and productivity. It has been shown to spur employees into brilliant moments of creativity and innovation – making them more efficient and constructive as they go about solving daily problems.
This is because they’re no longer hotboxed into a state of negativity, allowing room for positive emotions to flow freely. Positive emotions create dopamine and serotonin. Together, these chemicals stimulate the synthesis of neural processes and help achieve higher learning. It becomes easier to store new information, retain it in the brain for longer, and retrieve it more efficiently when we need it the most.
Being happy is, in fact, also linked to success. It would be foolhardy to limit the scope of success within the confines of our offices. Success goes beyond just work and encompasses nearly every aspect of our lives. Happiness is one of the precursors of success because it has been observed to tilt the odds in our favor. Happiness fosters a positive mindset that naturally leads to higher productivity and gives us the resolve we need to overcome everyday challenges.
- Research has shown that doctors brimming with positivity can get their tasks done 19% faster.
- Optimistic sales professionals outperformed their less optimistic peers by 56%.
- One meta-study of over 200 studies comprising 275,000 people found that positive emotions led to success in nearly every aspect of life, such as work, health, and sociability.
So, what can steps can you take to become happier? In his book, “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor distills happiness down into five steps based on the “HAPPY” acronym.
H: Help Someone Out With Your Signature Strengths
Leverage your signature strengths to help someone in need. We are naturally hardwired to feel more powerful and engaged when we help someone out. Acts of kindness energize us and boost positivity. If you want a quick happiness booster, put your talents to work. This works best if you use a talent that you enjoy doing and are good at. Each night before you go to bed, think about your signature strengths and how they can make a small difference in someone’s life.
A: Arrange an Activity You Like
One study found that just thinking about watching your favorite movie can raise your endorphin levels by 27%. Anticipation is often the most enjoyable part of an activity. If you don’t have the time for vacation, or even hanging out with friends, plan something in the near future and put it on the calendar, even if the activity is several months (or even years) away. Then whenever you need a happiness booster, remind yourself of the activity. This week, I challenge you to schedule three exciting activities. It could be anything fun such as watching a favorite movie, going to dinner with a friend, or just playing video games.
P: Practice Gratitude
For all the amazing good that it does, gratitude doesn’t get enough attention. It doesn’t cost money or time, yet the payoff is enormous. Research shows that gratitude has the following seven advantages:
- It fosters relationships. Small gestures like saying, “thank you” and expressing your appreciation can help you win over new people or deepen the connections you already have.
- Gratitude makes you physically healthier. Grateful people have fewer pains and aches, and they report feeling healthier than other people.
- Gratitude makes you psychologically healthier. Gratitude counteracts negative emotions such as jealousy, anger, resentment, and regret. Studies show that gratitude elevates a person’s state of happiness and counteracts depression.
- Gratitude increases empathy and mitigates aggression. Grateful people can empathize with other people and express more concern for others. It deters vengeful emotions and dissipates aggression.
- Grateful people sleep healthier. Sleep is essential to your overall well-being. Good sleep quality increases your energy levels and helps you deal with challenges throughout the day.
- Gratitude boosts your self-esteem. Gratitude reduces the self-destructive habit of constantly comparing oneself to others. As a result, grateful people don’t feel resentment against someone’s accomplishments –a feeling that can crush one’s self-esteem.
- Gratitude builds mental strength. Gratitude is an antidote to stress and makes it easier for people to overcome traumatic life experiences. Recognizing everything you have – both good and bad – fosters resiliency.
Keep a journal by your bed. Write down three things that you are grateful for before going to sleep at night or before getting out of bed in the morning.
P: Perform Deliberate Acts of Kindness
Sonja Lyubormirsky, a leading researcher and author of The How of Happiness, found that people who completed five acts of kindness every day felt happier than other groups. The positive emotions lingered on for several days after the acts of kindness. Buy someone a cup of coffee, listen to someone’s struggle, or send a message of encouragement to a friend or family member.
Y: Yearn for Social Support
After being hammered by their daily swarm of activities, challenges, and stress, some people choose to withdraw and retreat within themselves. And while that is okay for a little while to unwind and relax, it’s far more effective to spend time among friends, peers, and family members to move forward. Invest and nurture your social support network and if you don’t have one, seek one out.
At the beginning of each week, schedule a social support activity. It could be something as small as a coffee date or even a zoom or phone call. In our household, one of our favorite sayings is “choose happiness”. We write it on our weekly calendar, and we remind each other of it often. It’s a great tool to be more intentional about starting off our day with the right mindset.
“Happiness is a choice, happiness spreads, and happiness is an advantage.” – Shawn Achor.