“The Happiness Advantage”: Linking Positive Brains to Performance

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Attention Matters, Linda Ray | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s always good to begin a new year with a positive outlook and clear resolutions, but it’s not so easy to maintain these as work piles up, deadlines loom, and the day-to-day grind wears away our best intentions.

With this in mind, we wanted to start the year right by presenting a roundup of psychologist Shawn Achor’s research findings on the correlation between happiness and success. He offers some simple tips on things we can do to become happier in the moment, thereby increasing success and satisfaction at work.

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happy business people

Most companies and schools follow this formula: if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy. According to psychologist Shawn Achor, this formula is scientifically backward. A decade of research shows that training your brain to be positive at work first actually fuels greater success second. In fact, 75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by our optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.

By researching top performers at Harvard, the world’s largest banks, and Fortune 500 companies, Achor discovered patterns, which create a happiness advantage for positive outliers—the highest performers at the company. In his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010 Random House), Achor writes about what positive psychology is, explores how much we can change, and offers practical applications for reaping the ‘Happiness Advantage’ in the midst of change and challenge.

Briefly, positive psychology is the study of what makes people thrive.  There’s a strong connection between an individual’s mindset, social support system and well-being. By simply adopting a positive outlook on life, it’s possible to set the course for a better future.

Achor’s happiness tips

There are simple things we can practice each day to feel happier in the moment. Try these and test the results:


Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.29.13 PMSend an Appreciative Email  
When you open your inbox for the first time each day, take two minutes to send an email to someone in your social support network (family member, friend, teacher, coach, coworker) praising him/her or thanking that person. Studies from Harvard show this is so powerful that there is actually a correlation between happiness and social connection of 0.7, significantly higher than the correlation between smoking and cancer. Social connection can be as predictive of your longevity as high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.


Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.19.23 PMSmiling Is Contagious  
Through a study involving 11,000 hospital employees over six months, it was found that smiling, making eye contact and simply saying hello within 10 feet of another person increased the hospital’s patient satisfaction, the doctors’ job satisfaction, and the likelihood to refer the hospital to others. This is because of the way neurons function in our body, lighting up at the receipt of a friendly gesture, telling our brains to smile when someone smiles at us and spreading the joy all around.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.18.01 PMGive Thanks  For the next 21 days, think of three things you are grateful for before you go to sleep. We did a study on this, and at the end of the study, participants were significantly more optimistic, and further, the change wasn’t temporary—the positive mindset lasted even six months later. An added effect: Increasing your optimism can improve your productive energy by 31 percent!

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Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.26.40 PMNever Give Up On the Good Times  
Take two minutes every day to write down every detail you can remember about one positive experience that occurred over the past 24 hours. As our brains can’t tell much difference between visualization and actual experience, by rehashing a high point in the day you double the effect of that positive experience. Overall, this leads to greater life satisfaction and meaning. Studies have shown that women who wrote about positive experiences were 40 percent more likely to live to age 94 than their negative peers.

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imagesHave Fun  By adding 15 minutes of a fun, mindful activity to your day, like gardening, going on a walk or working out, your brain learns to believe that behaviors matter—the core of optimism. In  fact, in one study, researchers took people suffering from depressions and had half take an antidepressant and half do light aerobic exercise in order to train their brain to believe that their behavior matters. While there were equal drops in depression for the first few months, the group that added a habit of exercise had significantly lower chance of relapse back into depression 10 months later. Habits like the “Fun 15” help your brain record a victory, which creates a “cascade of success,” where individuals start creating a constellation of positive habits around them, decreasing the likelihood for depression and despair..


Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.17.06 PMMeditate  
Take two minutes each day to stop what you’re doing and watch your breath go in and out. This exercise trains your brain to do one thing at a time. Research suggests that a multitasking brain has a harder time falling asleep, is more stressed, and has lower energy. By taking time to relax the brain has a chance to undo the negative effects of trying to manage everything at once.

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 In this fast-moving and entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness actually inspires productivity.

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Shawn-Achor-author-pic-888x1024Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success.   Shawn teaches for the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia University.

In 2007, Shawn founded GoodThinkInc to share his research with the world. Subsequently, Shawn has lectured or researched in more than 50 countriesShawn is the author of New York Times best-selling books The Happiness Advantage (2010) and Before Happiness (2013) as well as Ripple’s Effect and The Orange Frog.

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4 Responses to ““The Happiness Advantage”: Linking Positive Brains to Performance”

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Thanks for sharing the research! Please check out more details at goodthinkinc.com

We love your work, Shawn!

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