Whistle while you work: the link between happiness and success

Whistle while you work: the link between happiness and success

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen an increasing trend of linking happiness and success. And it seems rational that successful people would be happy, but research shows that it is really a two way street – that happy people are more successful. In fact, happiness often precedes success. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside, has released some of the most relevant findings on this correlation.

“Positive job characteristics can also enhance positive affect concurrently, which suggests that a bidirectional relationship of mutually reinforcing variables may exist. That is, happiness can foster particular job characteristics, which, in turn, enhance one’s happiness and activate an upward spiral over time.[1]”

Meaning happiness fosters characteristics that make people successful and it create a cycle of happiness and success.

“Happy people show more frequent positive affect and specific adaptive characteristics. Positive affect has been shown, in experimental, longitudinal, and correlational studies, to lead to these specific adaptive characteristics. Thus, the evidence seems to support our conceptual model that happiness causes many of the successful outcomes with which it correlates. Furthermore, the data suggest that the success of happy people may be mediated by the effects of positive affect and the characteristics that it promotes.

It appears that happiness, rooted in personality and in past successes, leads to approach behaviors that often lead to further success. At the same time, happy people are able to react with negative emotions when it is appropriate to do so.[2]”

It makes sense that positive people would be more successful. By their nature they are more willing to take the risk and research shows they are more adaptable to failure. And they are more willing to learn from mistakes versus becoming discourage and giving up. Our primary focus shouldn’t be on the outcome, but rather the attitudes and habits that will help us get there.

Here are my top 5 ways to be more positive

1. Be grateful. Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to become more positive.[3] The good news is there is a lot to be positive for, if you’re reading this, you most likely have access to the internet. Which means you probably also have access to running water. Expand out from there, once you start thinking about it – it’s amazing what we take for granted.

2. Be kind. Kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories. [4] It’s easy to criticize, but it’s not the critic who counts. I fail at this one more often than I would like, I set a high standard for myself and sometimes judge others too harshly for not living up to my expectations. I try to get a little better each day and you can too.

3. Breathe. Stress and anxiety are big roadblocks to being happy. Paced abdominal breathing leads to lower stress levels, as well as a reduction in worrisome thoughts and sleepless nights. Not to mention better digestion, lower blood pressure, and a more capable immune system. [5]

4. Take a walk. Short bouts of walking have been shown to have a significant impact on mood with substantial shifts toward a positive outlook. [6]

5. Write it down. Writing about positive experiences enhances and prolongs a positive mood. Plus, preliminary findings indicate health buffering effects. [7]

Final thoughts

There may be some debate on how much happiness comes down to choice. However, we can all agree that being positive in our thoughts and actions will have an impact on how happy we are.  You can hum nervously or whistle while you work, the choice is yours.


1. Boehm, Julia K., and Sonja Lyubomirsky. “Does happiness promote career success?.” Journal of career assessment 16.1 (2008): 101-116.
2. Lyubomirsky, Sonja, Laura King, and Ed Diener. “The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success?.” Psychological bulletin 131.6 (2005): 803.
3. Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough. “Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.” Journal of personality and social psychology 84.2 (2003): 377.

4. Otake, Keiko, et al. “Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention.” Journal of Happiness Studies 7.3 (2006): 361-375.
5. Albin, Jayme. “Breathing your way to a happier and healthier life.” Ask the CBT (2009)
6. Ekkekakis, Panteleimon, et al. “Walking in (affective) circles: can short walks enhance affect?.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine 23.3 (2000): 245-275.
7. Burton, Chad M., and Laura A. King. “The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences.” Journal of research in personality 38.2 (2004): 150-163.

Image: “…while you work” by Vix_B licensed under CC BY 2.0

Also published on Medium.

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