The Happiness Advantage


Oh my is Shawn Achor hysterical, huh?  Got happiness on my brain these days.  Love this guy and his message!  This week I was talking to some people about the busy-ness of our lifestyle in the US. We were talking about how the American work week has increased from 40 to 50-70 hours a week.  Insanity! It seems these days in order to be a good employee you have to be working towards the grave.  What’s up with this? Are you more productive when you work more hours?  And to coin a familiar therapy phrase “And how does THAT make you feel?”  Americans have this odd obsession with overproduction as if the human body were a bionic machine. That was a show in the 1970’s people!  And how is THIS working for us?  Not so good.  According to the CDC more than one third of Americans are obese.  Unless your job is to “pick things up and put them down” you are sitting most of your waking hours if you are working that much.  It’s no wonder why we are the sickest nation. How the heck to you attain that elusive work, balance, for yourself with all the pressure of reality around you? The average amount of sick time taken by Americans working 40 hours a week is roughly between 3-5 days a year.  This article Paid Sick Day Absenteeism cites a rise in people going to work sick as they are too concerned with the possibility of losing their job from calling out of work.  Insane, right?  Work harder, faster, longer.  And if that is affecting your health or attitude there must be something wrong with you and therefore we need to think about getting rid of you.  Where are we heading people?  Into a brick wall it seems.

Shawn Achor suggests that there is a direct connection between an employee’s ability to be productive and their happiness ratio.  He terms this “The Happiness Advantage.”  Huh, interesting and not rocket science right?  So why aren’t we adopting this more?  Well little by little you see and hear of the inkling of change happening.  Employers are beginning to realize that if their employees are happy then they will work not just harder and longer but better.  And what makes us happy?  Well no matter where I look into this, all arrows are always pointing back to connection, community and love.  So it’s finding the old “work/life balance” that we need to support.  Psychology, the field of excavating the depths of individuals despair, is even becoming fascinated with  researching happiness.  Achor speaks about positive psychology which is a field of study that is totally and completely devoted to unraveling the intricacies of what makes us happy.  Fascinating right?  Therapy can be not only about what hasn’t gone right but about how to increase your happiness!  Brilliant! Now THAT is a field of study I can get behind! I’m all for better understanding where you came from so you know where you are going but to do that without helping you become happier in the moment seems well…..depressing!   Positive psychology was founded by Dr. Martin Seligman  .   What if therapy were a place where you could learn more about authentic happiness rather than only analyze what went wrong?  Maybe less people would feel like lepers when they mentioned the idea of going to see a therapist!  Former Harvard professor and writer, Tal Ben Shakar, has written many books on the subject of positive psychology.  He teaches a certificate program in Positive Psychology at Kripalu Institute.  His classes at Harvard have been said to have been the hardest to get into.  We are starving for happiness.  We want someone to give us permission to become happier.  But happiness is not a lofty goal but it is a goal that you need to set for yourself.  An individual journey of sorts.

Our level of happiness is connected to the levels of the  neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.  Dopamine is related to the pathways leading the reward center in the brain.  It is responsible for making us excited, happy and eager to achieve goals.  Dopamine is released when we engage in pleasurable activities.     This article from the Cornell Chronicle discusses the connection between dopamine and personality Dopamin Linked Personality Trait and Happiness.  It states that people for whome happiness comes easily tend to be extroverts who naturally have higher levels of dopamine. The research also states a connection between low levels of dopamine and use of stimulants. With the over consumption of caffeine and sugar in our culture now a days this connection is quite curious.  The human body can only go for so long before exhaustion sets in.  We therefore consume more caffeine hoping to keep going.  We get the immediate buzz off the caffeine or sugar increasing dopamine briefly which gives you that immediate dose of excitement only to let you down in a short period of time. Like every “quick fix” it works immediately with no hope of lasting affects. This is where our diet ties into whether we are able to achieve the “happiness advantage” or not. go after goals.
The question remains, how do we shift away from working towards our grave to capitalizing on the “Happiness Advantage?”  Awareness is the first step to change.  Are you living life or is life living you? The answer to this question will help you take steps down the yellow brick road towards wellness. You have the ability, no matter what age or personality type you are, to change your direction. Gratitude is also something that definitely has been known to help increase happiness ratios..  Being grateful for what you have brings   Eating healthy foods and exercising builds a healthier and therefore happier you.  Nurturing your relationships with the people you love.  Doing loving things for yourself allows that love to pour out of you naturally.  So take breaks when at work.  Get fresh air.  Spend time in nature. Know your limits and respect them.  And above all LAUGH as hard and often as possible.  Life is fleeting.  It passes very quickly so savor the moment that you are in.  Find as much joy in each moment  as possible.  That joy you manifest today will lead you in the direction of living your best life.
Be well:)


  1. […] them makes grocery shopping as fun as connecting with friends:)  Yesterday we chatted in my post The Happiness Advantage about the connection between happiness and being productive.  In the post we talked about […]

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