Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A little bit of happiness research

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a half-day course for work called 'The Science of Flourishing'. Fantastic course. I wrote the following for our Intranet but thought I'd shared it via my blog too...

Now this is the kind of workshop I like! The presenter, Katherine Street, passes around individually wrapped Ferrero Rocher chocolates and we are told to spend a few minutes savouring the smell and anticipation of biting into the chocolate. After we are finally given the okay to eat our chocolate someone comments they have never enjoyed a chocolate so much. It’s perfect timing too as morning tea is just about to served and it’s also rather luscious – tiers of cakes, scones and cream and jam, and croissants. Now this is much better than being at work!


Katherine Street is a local psychologist who is very well versed in the science and latest research into ‘happiness’. One of the first exercises are asked to do in our groups is to match the percentage each of the following three components of happiness have on a pie chart (40%, 50% or 10%): Genetics; Life Circumstances; and Intentional Action.

Most of the groups put Intentional Action at 50%, Life Circumstances at 40% and Genetics at 10%.
The big surprise is when Katherine reveals that our genetics account for 50% of our ability to be happy, our life circumstances for 10% and our intentional actions for 40%.

Research has found that wealth, age, attractiveness, gender, health, intelligence and education have very little impact on our level of happiness. And yes as we often hear the research confirms that winning the lottery is not the way to find happiness.

What can impact on our happiness is the intentional actions we can take to gain pleasure through engaging all our senses - from doing things like listening to our favourite music, hugging a grandchild, seeing an amazing scene, tasting great food, smelling our morning coffee brewing...

Happiness also comes from:
  • engaging in activities (including work) that involve us experiencing 'flow' (periods when we lose track of time)
  • finding meaning in our lives (including meaning in our work)
  • being connected to and doing things with and for others, and
  • through celebrating our achievements.
In the workplace successful team environments need to have a positive to negative ratio of 5:1. So how can we improve the ratio of happiness in our own workplaces? Our group decides that by being happier ourselves this will have a ripple effect on our colleagues and that we should also all engage in more random acts of kindness and cake!

Katherine Street has a lot of interesting material on happiness worth having a read through on her website:

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