The Happiness Advantage: Part II


Principle #1:  the Happiness Advantage

Positive brains have an advantage over negative or neutral brains.  Our outlook and mood are positive when we are happy and this makes us smarter, more motivated and ultimately, more successful because we are happy.  Competitive, successful people are those who capitalize on positivity.

How do scientists define happiness?  After years of testing, involving millions of people, it has been determined that happiness is “the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose”[1].  Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology, has determined there are three measurable components to happiness:  pleasure, engagement, and meaning.  Aristotle defined happiness as “human flourishing”.  The main components of happiness are positive emotions – awe, amusement, gratitude, hope, interest, inspiration, joy, love, pride, and serenity.  Aggregating over 200 scientific studies which involved about 275,000 people, it was determined that happiness translates into success in almost every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.

Positive psychology studies show us that happiness leads to greater success, higher performance and greater productivity – not the inverse.  “Happiness precedes important outcomes . . .happiness causes success and achievement”[2] and can also improve out physical health and well-being.

Negative emotions narrow our thoughts and resultant range of action.  Happiness has an important evolutionary purpose.  It helps to “broaden the amount of possibilities we process, making us more creative and open to new ideas”[3].  Broadened possibilities increase our creativity and help us build more physical, social, and intellectual resources which ultimately leads to greater success.

Biology plays a part in the effects of happiness.  When we are happy, our brains are flooded with serotonin and dopamine, making us feel good and also boosting the learning centers of our brains into higher gears.  This leads to increase neural connections resulting in the ability to think more quickly and with greater creativity.  We become “more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things”[4].  Every time people experience happiness they are mentally primed for greater creativity and innovation, leading to greater success.  Happiness can also help decrease stress and anxiety so we can function on a higher level.

Our happiness fluctuates continually but with concentrated effort we can raise our baseline so that when we are happy we reap even greater rewards.  There are many activities that we can engage in to do just that.  These should be mindfully practiced over time to reap the greatest benefit:

      • Meditate
      • Find something to look forward to
      • Commit conscious acts of kindness
      • Infuse positivity into your surroundings
      • Exercise
      • Spend money (but not on stuff – spend it on experiences)
      • Exercise a signature strength

Lastly, be mindful of the effects on others of negative comments and encounters.  According to a study conducted by Marcial Losada, the ratio of positive to negative interactions is a key determinant in success.  It takes at least three positive experiences, interactions, or comments to negate the effects of one negative experience, interaction, or comment.  Increasing your positivity ratio leads to greater performance, trust, and ability to deal with the negative.

 “Happiness is the center around which success orbits.”[5]

If you would like to read the first article in this series, please see here.  Next time . . . “The Fulcrum and The Lever:  Changing Your Performance by Changing Your Mindset.

~ Julie Morris ~


[1] Achor, Shawn, The Happiness Advantage (New York: Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010), 39.

[2] Achor, 42.

[3] Achor, 44.

[4] Achor, 44.

[5] Achor, 61.

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