14 Jul 2014

The Tipping Point of A Happy Economy

Article on - The Tipping Point of A Happy Economy

The Tipping Point of A Happy Economy
@ASK Training Pte Ltd

The Tipping Point
Since the founding of Positive psychology in 1998 by Dr. Martin Seligman, there has been a rising interest in both positive psychology and subjective happiness. Some organisations were quick to take advantage of this trend and became propagators of happiness. They used “happiness” as the tagline in their promotion and advertising campaigns.  Organisations like Zappos, Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Wall’s Ice Cream, Starhub are some examples. The envision of a “happy economy” became a reality when the United Nations’ General Assembly adopted the resolution “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development” in August 2011 and declared every 20th March as the International Day of Happiness in 2013.
Definition of Happiness
Happiness can be defined as the subjective measure of life satisfaction or dissatisfaction and a life that is worth living. It can be categorised into seven levels from the most to the least satisfaction in life:-
The Happy Life            – Engage one’s strengths to contribute to a larger purpose.
The Good Life              – Engage in activities or events which cause enjoyment.
The Pleasant Life        – Experiences that bring pleasures to the body or mind.
I’m OK Life                    – A temporary state when one is at the set point or baseline level of happiness.
The Unpleasant Life   – Circumstances that cause pain to the body or mind
The Bad Life                 – Disengage at home, work and community
The No Life                   – Live life aimlessly

The Happiness DNA
Happiness is a natural pursuit of human beings and it can be learned. First, is to identify the sources of happiness, and next, is to learn the various skills to cultivate happiness.  The sources of happiness can be broadly classified into external and internal. External sources of happiness are short-lived and external to us. They include financial, career, environmental, social and physical. Internal sources are permanent and they help to create an internal condition that is conducive to cultivate happiness in our genes. They include mental, emotional and spiritual.

Financial. Being financially adequate to make ends meet is an important source of happiness. A person cannot be happy if he is worried about how to make ends meet.
Career. Employees spend more than one-third of their lifetime at work and it is important that they can find workplace happiness and meaning in their daily work.
Environmental. Residential studies in the United States have shown that houses close to nature or green space promote well-being and reduce mental fatigue of people who live there.
Social. Happiness is not just about being happy but it is also about bringing happiness to people around us. Research has shown that relationship with spouse, children, parents, colleagues and friends is an important source of happiness. 
Physical. Physical health is an important source of happiness as it affects both the physical and mental ability of a person. Good health brings happiness and happiness brings better health. In a 2002 Australian study (published in the American Journal of Health Promotion), participants who were happy and satisfied found that they were 1.6 times healthier than the group who were unhappy.
Mental. Ed Diener, the University of Illinois psychology professor emeritus, who lead the review of more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity has found 'clear and compelling evidence' that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives.
Emotional. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and author of the book “Positivity”, says that focusing on day-to-day feelings of satisfaction can lead to a happier life, and that an awareness of the present moment, paying attention to human kindness, and enjoying nice weather can increase positivity in one's mental outlook.
Spiritual. Spiritual source of happiness is not about religion or faith but about having a clear sense of purpose in life. Discovering one’s life purpose and passion, and directing all energies towards it raises happiness.
Workplace Happiness
Numerous studies on workplace happiness have shown that happy employees are 2 times more productive and they are likely to stay in their jobs 5 times longer than unhappy employees. They are 6 times more engerised and they are likely to take 10 times less medical leaves than their unhappy colleagues. Happier workers also tend to help their colleagues 33% more than their least happy colleagues. They are 36% more motivated and are likely to achieve their goals 31% more than unhappy employees. Making employees happy becomes a necessity rather than an exception in a happy economy.

Organisations need to adopt a holistic approach in aligning and internalising an organisation’s purpose, people, practices and culture to nurture a happier workplace.
Happy Purpose
In the happy economy, organisation’s existence goes beyond profits. Altruism is the moral purpose of organisations to make all stakeholders happier. Happiness should be an inclusive purpose.
Happy Practices
The happy purpose has to be translated into happy practices that aim to nurture happy people and a happy culture. The design and implementation of happy workplace practices to nurture a happy culture, and to attract and retain happy people is a crucial ingredient of the workplace happiness DNA. 
Happy People
Only 10 percent of personal happiness is beyond the control of individuals. The other 90 percent can be achieved by hiring happy people and nurturing them with the happy soul, happy mind, happy heart and happy habits.
Happy Culture
The ingredients of a happy culture and how it can be sustained in the long term promote workplace happiness as a way of life.

About the writer

Johnson Ong Chee Bin is the Chief Happiness Coach of Living Better, which empowers individuals and organisations to live a purposeful and fulfilling mission. Workshops on “The Happiness DNA” and “Workplace Happiness” are available at ASK Training Pte Ltd.