The Happiness Equation: Research-Backed Ways to Enhance Happiness

In the pursuit of success, it is often assumed that happiness will follow once you achieve your goal or next steps – dream job, marriage, higher earnings. Research, however, suggests that happiness and positivity often precede successful outcomes. In his engaging and light-hearted Ted Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work, Shawn Achor discusses the “happiness advantage” whereby positivity drives success. He discusses how a positive outlook is thought to improve integration of new information and increase resilience, resulting in success in multiple areas of life, including marriage, friendship, work, and health & well-being.

Studies have linked happiness to greater career success and show that happy people perform better at work, enjoy higher earnings, and have more positive relationships and social interactions. With happiness as both a cause and consequence of desirable life outcomes, the big question then is how do you begin to enter into this happiness cycle?

Research suggests that engaging in intentional acts of kindness and other simple positive activities has emotional benefits, increasing and sustaining happiness and well-being. Here are a few research-backed activities that can be integrated into your daily routine and take as little as a few hours a week.

01. Be Kind


The African concept, ubuntu, embodies the idea that we become most fully ourselves when we help others. “A person becomes a person through other people.” Most cultures, religions, and research studies seem to agree on this concept – being kind to others enhances self-perception, promotes positive social interactions, and increases connectedness to the community, resulting in increased happiness. Some of the simplest kind acts can create large value in others’ lives and start a ripple effect of kindness.

Start small with holding a door open for someone or sending a thoughtful note to a friend or family member and build up gradually to your personal goal (e.g., 3-4 kind acts a week). For some ideas, check out 1,000 Kind Acts which describes small, empowering acts of kindness that can help spark ideas for simple ways you can show kindness in your everyday interactions.

“Happiness is a perfume, when you pour it on others, you always get some on yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

02. Spend time cherishing the good parts of your day


Daily reflection or journaling can help you appreciate the positive aspects of your day and better manage stress, moving you toward becoming the best version of yourself. As studies have demonstrated, having a grateful outlook by consciously focusing on the positives can have emotional and physiological benefits. With the expression of gratitude so strongly linked to well-being and happiness, why not spend just a few minutes a day reflecting on the beauty of yesterday?

Every morning while I’m commuting to work, I spend ~10 minutes thinking about the day before, starting with the high points. From a gorgeous sunny day to all green signal lights on my drive to work to catching up with old friends, I take a few minutes each day to re-live these awesome moments!

There are a variety of resources available to guide you through reflecting on the high points of your day. You can print and use this Happiness Reflection Guide (doc format), download an app on your phone, or buy a good old-fashioned hardcover journal…do what works for you!

“You will know the true value of a moment when it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

03. Exercise and Meditate


Studies suggest that exercise and meditation boost your mood, reduce stress, and enhance creative thinking. There are a variety of free meditation resources, including spiritually-inspired meditations and mini-retreats, which you can download and listen to on-the-go. Try out different exercises and meditations and find what works best for you!


Kindness + Gratitude + Exercise & Meditation = A Happier You


“There is no key to happiness; the door is always open.” – Mother Teresa


Pictures from here, here, here, and here.

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