The Happiness Advantage: The Unofficial Review Guide

The Happiness Advantage

Principle #1: The Happiness Advantage

Happiness is defined as the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. (p.39)

Happiness is further broken down (by Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology) into 3 components:

  • pleasure
  • engagement
  • meaning.

The Happiness Advantage at Work – Data shows that happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out. (p.41)

The "chicken or egg question" (which comes first, happiness or success) is answered definitively by a number of studies on employees, students, and even nuns. Happiness precedes success. (p.42)

Priming the brain with positive thoughts has been proven to improve performance in both business and academic environments. (p.46)

Students told to think of the happiest day of their life just before taking a standardized math test outperformed their peers. (p.46)

Positive emotions also provide a swift antidote to physical stress and anxiety, which psychologists call "the undoing effect." Thinking positive thoughts, making a quick call to a friend, watching a funny video, or taking a brisk walk around the block all can help reduce stress and anxiety, such as before an important presentation.

Proven ways to improve mood and raise happiness level: (p.51)

  • Meditate – take 5 minutes per day, breathe in and out, and remain focused.

  • Find something to look forward to – the most enjoyable part of an activity is often the anticipation. Think about an upcoming outing or vacation, or put one on your calendar, even if it's a year away.

  • Commit conscious acts of kindness – pick 1 day per week and plan to commit 5 acts of kindness. An example is paying the toll for the car behind you.

  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings – go outside on a nice day, or put pictures of loved ones around your work area. Avoid negative news and television.

  • Exercise – exercise not only produces pleasure-inducing endorphins, it can boost mood and enhance work performance.

  • Spend money (but not on stuff) – studies have found that spending money on experiences rather than material objects produces positive emotions that are more meaningful and last longer. Also, spending money on other people produces more happiness than spending money on yourself.

  • Exercise a signature strength – take the survey at to identify your signature strengths, then exercise at least one every day.

Companies can benefit from this knowledge by fostering happiness in their workplace. Short bursts of positive emotion result in increased performance and creativity. Examples include businesses like Google, Patagonia, and others. While extreme examples include scooters in the halls, video games, impromptu surfing, and in-house masseuses, Coors saw a 600%+ return with a corporate-sponsored fitness program.  (p.57)

The Losada Line – Marcial Losada, a psychologist and business consultant, found that the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a corporate team successful is 2.9013. That is, it takes about 3 positive interactions to make up for 1 negative interaction. Drop below that ratio, and performance suffers. Get up to 6-to-1 for maximum performance. (p.60)



The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor