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THE SCIENCE

The physiology of the brain changes, literally changes, when we are happy, optimistic and positive

The physiology of the brain changes, literally changes, when we are happy, optimistic and positive (or HOP). Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, considered the father of positive psychology and past president of The American Psychological Association, began promoting the effects of happiness on the brain in the 1990s.  Since then, reams of data, thousands of studies, decades of research, and a serious application of the scientific method have provided irrefutable proof that we perform better when in HOP. To quote Shawn Achor, “our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.” Brain grey matter increases, the hippocampus grows, and neurotransmitters are released that not only make us feel good but open up the learning centers of our brain. A meta-analysis of positivity research published in 2005 entitled The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? reviewed over 225 research papers and included almost 300,000 subjects concluded that HOP individuals are more successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friends, income, health and work performance.

This is a fresh approach to employee engagement and well-being.  HOP employees are engaged employees and improving engagement scores on a team, business area, or organization has immediate impact on the bottom line. A multi-industry study of 6 companies found on average that a thriving workplace increased performance by 16%.[1] Happy employees are 85% more efficient at their work and 10 times less likely to take sick leave.[2] By teaching employees to focus on positivity, we create engaged, productive employees.  Finally, going positive also improves health and counters the rising costs associated with healthcare. According to Marlynn Wei, M.D. Harvard Health Publications, “Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of visits to doctor and account for third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer."  Going positive teaches stress mitigation techniques, along with mindfulness and resiliency. By increasing engagement, productivity and well-being, going positive has immediate impact on the bottom line.

1. Author Glen Rifkin, Happy People Spark High Performance. 

2. The Science of Happiness, globoforce.

What does this mean for You and your business?