Rational Roundup #5 – Part I/III: Productivity through Happiness?

The Rational Roundup, as previously announced, provides our readers with regular updates on rational thinking and current discussions among cognitive scientists. Our latest edition addresses positive psychology and the behavioral enhancement of your professional productivity.

Research shows that happiness and workplace success are related to each other. In comparison with their less happy colleagues, people who are content earn more money, perform better and are more helpful to others. According to Boehm/Lyubomirsky, the evidence suggests that people are not happy because of their success, but are successful because they were first happy.(1) There is further evidence that happiness precedes behavior leading to success, as well as behavior accompanying success.(2)

Some examples of people over-performing due to their happiness are, according to Shawn Achor, a psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc., the following: the brain is 31% more productive, salespeople are 37% better at trades and doctors are 19% faster and more accurate at finding the correct diagnosis.

As you might now, we can reprogram our brains to be happier. This is only possible because most of our brains were programmed for the negative. We have seen this during the last year of reading behavioral insights many times. At a fundamental level, there is the negativity bias, forcing your brain to react stronger to negative, rather than positive, stimuli.  Further up, we can observe the same negative input for our brains in our everyday life. Take the news as an example – usually the only topics that we hear about are terrorism, natural disaster, layoffs and tax increases.

But how to start?

Reprogramming can start with a few simple steps a day. A positive change is induced by writing down three things you are grateful for at the end of a day (3), journaling about positive experiences you had (4) and meditation (there will be a follow-up roundup on this!).

Of course, you can just start by just taking notes every evening. After 21 days, you will, according to Shawn Achor, already feel an improvement in your happiness. I myself have made good experience with the mobile app “Happify” by Good Think Inc. It helps by giving you small tasks to emphasize focusing on the positives. My experience when I used it in very stressful times of my life with demanding hours of work or study were very positive.

Start now by rewiring your brain for the positive! Stay Happy! 🙂


1: Boehm, J K.; Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). “Does Happiness Promote Career Success?”. Journal of Career Assessment. 16 (1): 101–116

2: Lyubomirsky, S.; King, L.; Diener, E. (2005). “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?”

3: Emmons, R. A.; McCullough, M. E. (2003). “Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

4: Slatcher, R. B.; Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words”