Which happiness habits would have the greatest impact on individual and organizational productivity?

By: Hanlie van Wyk

This is part of The BRATLAB ‘Habit Prescription Dose Value’ Series

As I am writing this, I am also tuned in to ‘One World: Together At Home’ hosted by Global Citizen. Their mission is to build a movement of global citizens with the shared mission of ending extreme poverty. During the COVID-19 outbreak, they rounded-up sponsors to stream a global broadcast of musicians performing from home to support frontline healthcare workers and the World Health Organization (WHO). The only thing they ask is for individuals to pledge and to share who inspires them to stay at home. It’s an unusual and unique example of acts of kindness on a mass scale.

The Behavioural Research and Applied Technology Laboratory (‘BRATLAB’) researched nine happiness habits that could improve productivity and divided them into three categories: Foster, Focus, and Savor. In this series, we took a look at the nine happiness habits, exploring the value that each one can bring. We are on the second of three habits that make up Fostering Happiness which, appropriately enough, happens to be performing acts of kindness! In a previous post, we blogged about building positive relationships. In our next post, we will talk about showing self-compassion.

Performing Acts of Kindness and Generosity

Acts of kindness are acts or behaviors that are not normally expected of you in your daily life and involve some sacrifice by you. It involves an act or a spontaneous gesture of goodwill towards someone or something.

Kindness has three components:

  1. The motivation to be kind to others
  2. The recognition of kindness in others
  3. The enactment of kind behavior in your daily life

Acts of kindness can boost happiness in various ways. It increases cooperation and interdependence in teams. Individuals feel more confident, in control, and optimistic when practicing kindness. Because it inspires others to like you greater, kindness can be valuable in times of stress. Finally, it satisfies a basic human need for relatedness.

Acts of kindness not only increase feelings of happiness and boost well-being, but using kindness as a business strategy may increase sales and attract new customers. Consumer experts rate random acts of kindness as effective for reaching new customers and boosting sales.

Making the Change:  How Can I Practice Acts of Kindness Right Now?

People appear to become happier by performing five acts of kindness per week for six weeks. You can do all five acts in one day or you can spread the five acts over the week. Happiness also increases when practicing many varieties of kindness (three to nine different types) for 10 weeks. In one study, participants who committed acts of kindness experienced a significant increase in well-being. This increase was evident only among those who delivered all their weekly kindnesses in a single day. Another study shows that a larger variety of acts encourages regular practice.

Choosing from a variety of acts of kindness has more impact than selecting from a low variety of acts. If this feels like too much for you, simply counting three acts of kindness per week can increase well-being. Examples might include:

  • Writing a thank-you note
  • Appreciating or promoting a friend on social media
  • Donating blood
  • Helping a friend with a task or work
  • Visiting an elderly relative (when the COVID-19 risk has subsided)
  • Volunteering
  • Doing a chore that you don’t usually do
  • Letting one person go ahead of you in a queue
  • Letting a car enter your lane or go ahead of you at a stop sign

Any organization looking to evaluate the impact of investing in these changes or wanting to understand more about how to create happy, healthy, and change-ready cultures should contact Change Craft on hello@changecraft.consulting.


In collaboration with the National Wellness Institute, Change Craft offers a set of self-paced eLearning courses, you will engage in a process of learning about what it takes to create a culture for healthy change. The Change Compass series begins with a free introductory course that provides the basic framework you will need for future learning. There is then a practical course on how to “Become a Change Agent,” with optional follow-up courses offering a deeper dive into how to create “healthy habit prescriptions,” as well as a more detailed review of some of the influence methods you can deploy. The courses are completed entirely online, although the “Become a Change Agent” course will require you to undertake practical exercises with a “buddy.” Plus, NWI members receive 15% off registration! Learn more about each course here.

Further reading:

 Layous, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The how, why, what, when, and who of happiness: Mechanisms underlying the success of positive activity interventions. In J. Gruber & J. T. Moskowitz (Eds.), Positive emotion: Integrating the light sides and dark sides (p. 473–495). Oxford University Press.

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon., K.M. & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change. Review of General Psychology 9 (2), 111–131.

Hanlie is a behavioral change expert, systems strategist, author, and PhD candidate for Hate Crime Studies. Her fascination with human behavior started while growing up in South Africa. From working to prevent hate crime to humanizing the workplace, her career spans three decades and four continents researching and applying behavioral change strategies to some of the most challenging behavioral problems. As Director of Change for Change Craft (powered by Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory) she studies, develops, and applies agnostic systems and practices that make change sticky, and results in high performing individuals and cultures.