Happiness: There’s More to the Smile Than Meets the Eye

As a psychologist, I occasionally feel a little embarrassed about some of the research in my field. Researchers spend years, and often significant amounts of grant money, to uncover results that seem intuitive to everyone outside of the laboratory. For example, did you know that suicide rates increase with the amount of country music played on the radio? It’s true.

Though at first glance some research seems like fluff, these studies often reveal information that is subtle, and therefore the results are more meaningful and useful in the real world.

Take happiness, for example. It may seem self-explanatory that happier people have better experiences than unhappy people. Among other things, they’re happier! But happiness, it turns out, has a multitude of other effects that might surprise you. An article from msnbc.com highlights some of these outcomes, including greater work performance, faster promotion, and higher income.

Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of “Happiness at Work,” analyzed survey and focus group results from 3,000 people in 79 countries and found that the happiest employees are 155 percent happier with their jobs, 108 percent more engaged, and 50 percent more productive, among other impressive findings. Complementary research conducted at the University of California shows that happiness literally pays. Two benefits to a good mood include higher income and higher work quality.

Alternatively, unhappy people tend to be less creative, less able to solve problems, and spread their misery to co-workers. Research shows that emotions are literally contagious, and at the risk of stating the obvious, wouldn’t we all rather work with people who are enthusiastic and pleasant than with pessimists?

* Editors Note:  Dr. Casey Mulqueen is TRACOM’s Director of Research.  A survey of TRACOM employees found that Wednesday is the least happy day of the work week, which is the day that Dr. Mulqueen works off-site.  Additional research is required to confirm if the relationship is causal. 

Learn more about how and why emotions are contagious.