(Origininally written for Deloitte Wellness Newsletter – 2014)

All human beings want to be happy, healthy and live a good life. The pursuit of happiness has been studied and written about by philosophers and poets since time immemorial. Today great companies such as Zappos, view happiness as one of the major pathways to successful business, and even created a movement called “Delivering Happiness”. Google’s Chief Happiness Officer Chade-Meng Tan  wrote a book called “Search inside yourself” in support of living a happier life.

Some more “traditional” organizations and experts are including happiness as a major source of positive outcomes at work. Forbes Magazine published an article about the 10 Steps to Happiness at Work while Harvard Mentor hasformal training material on how to cultivate happiness in companies. Renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, wrote a book “Stumbling on Happiness”.

The importance of happiness at work

Although it is intuitive, study after study shows that, when you are happy at work, you are more engaged in your job, you provide better customer service, you bounce back quicker from set-backs, you are a better team player and a better leader than those who do not experience happiness.

What then is happiness?

“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. (Wikipedia, June 16th 2014)

Happiness is not just one feeling – it is overall sense of positive emotions, such as joy, clarity, comfort. Together these create a feeling of being happy. The ultimate outcome of a state of happiness is vitality – a dynamic sense of wellbeing.According to Martin Seligman, humans seems the happiest and experience living the good life when they have

  1. Pleasure (tasty food, warm baths, etc.),
  2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),
  3. Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness),
  4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and
  5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

The good news: Experts tell us we can practice happiness and they recommend we do – even at work

Some people believe that happiness is something that you should not “manufacture” or “create” because it would not be “authentic happiness”. Other people believe that you have a certain level of happiness, and that it cannot be changed.

The evidence is clear: Happiness does not “just happen”. Like other qualities such as confidence and grit, it can be cultivated. Happiness, like riding a bicycle, is something we can practice to improve on.

Of course, to be happy we need to have our basic needs met, in particular have sufficient funds to support ourselves and our families, have good health and live in a safe and secure environment.

“Happiness is not a spectator sport.” Chris Peterson