Can You Synthesize Happiness?

by Ayla Lewis

The short answer is, yes we can.

One way we create, or synthesize, our own happiness is through our view on life’s events, more than on the events themselves: the same thing can happen to two people and they can feel very differently about it.

Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert uses the term “synthetic happiness” to refer to happiness that comes from our good thoughts about events that may seem bad at first. Further, we can “fake it ’till we become it“, as Amy Cuddy’s research suggests: simply holding our bodies in a wide posture can lower stress and raise confidence, resulting in more happiness. And make no mistake; although “synthetic happiness” is constructed in our minds and bodies, it is every bit as real as the happiness that comes with a major success, for example.

Another way we create our own happiness is through our spending. In If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Aren’t Spending it Right, Daniel Gilbert, et al. site numerous studies to support their eight principles for spending money to boost happiness.

Money can make us happy, but only if we spend it correctly. Here are three ways you can spend money to boost happiness at work:

  • Spend Money on Others Rather Than Yourself:

    Spend money, time, energy and more on other people and their needs. Spending on others boosts moods and relationships. Those who spend on others report greater happiness than those who spend on themselves.

  • Spend Money on Experiences Over Things:

    Spend your money on experiences, such as work events, to build great memories and relationships. Research shows that spending money can make us happy if it’s spent well. Spending on experiences tends to bring happiness before, during and after the event. Research has shown that spending on experiences consistently results in greater happiness than making material purchases.

  • Spend Money for the Future Rather Than Right Now: 

    Spend on something that will arrive in the future. Bonus points if it’s something that is shared with other people. Spending on the future boosts our mood with anticipation.

What does this all mean for the workplace? You can synthesize happiness by choosing how you respond to events and by carrying yourself in a confident, happy way. You can also boost the happiness of the whole team by spending money and resources in ways that make people feel valued, that build relationships through shared experiences, and that increase anticipation for the future.

How can you spend money and resources in ways that boost your happiness and the happiness of your team? In what ways have you synthesized happiness at work or in your career?

Ayla Lewis

As Director of Operations at Happy Brain Science, Ayla thrives most when helping individuals and organizations to maximize their success through the application of positive psychology and neuroscience.

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