Other workplace-based “happiness interventions” yielded equally encouraging results. At Hitachi’s office in Tokyo, Lyubomirsky and her colleague asked several employees to write down three things that had gone well each week; they also asked them to wear a small electronic badge to monitor their movements.
As expected, the employees displayed an increase in happiness – but that wasn't all. The electronic monitors showed that the employees became more mobile as their happiness increased. In essence, their happiness created a surge in energy, particularly in the morning. This energy tended to peak early, allowing employees to be more productive while working fewer hours.
And oddly, these happy, dynamic employees actually spoke less to their co-workers at the office.
“Happier people have been found to be more sociable,” Lyubomirsky says, “but our experiments suggest that’s not always true. Sometimes happiness allows us to focus more on work—and cut the chatter.”
In fact, much of Lyubomirsky’s work explodes common myths and misunderstandings about happiness.
Many recent studies suggest that having children makes couples less happy, due to the strain on leisure, finances, and marital contentment. But the truth is not so simple. Lyubomirsky has discovered that, on the whole, parents are happier than non-parents – though their happiness ebbs and flows, based on circumstances.
A parent in the presence of his child, for instance, is happier than a parent whose child is absent. Parents of younger children are less happy than their childfree peers. And married parents are relatively happier, as are older parents, who tend to have more resources.
But parents with lots of resources—extremely wealthy parents, in other words—appear to be significantly less happy than parents with moderate resources.
“Parents with the most resources also have the highest opportunity costs,” explains Lyubomirsky. “They feel their time is more valuable, and they fill a lot of different roles. So they’re not especially happy when they spend time with their kids – they question whether they should be doing something else.”
As Lyubomirsky’s research into parenting illustrates, there’s no singular recipe for joy. But many of us can boost our contentment levels through such small acts as paying a compliment to a co-worker, spending more time with our kids and taking a bit of time each week to reflect on what's going right in our lives