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

Did You Know?

  • 20 seconds of laughter may be as good for the lungs as three minutes spent on a rowing machine!
  • Laughing for 10–15 minutes a day burns up to 40 calories, and relaxes muscles for up to 45 minutes
  • Laughter increases positive thinking, reduces pain, helps us cope with stress, lowers BP and anxiety symptoms

Making a habit of laughing more often and connecting to your best possible self are two ways to increase your overall happiness and improve your health. Savoring involves the self-regulation of positive feelings typically through generating, maintaining, or enhancing feelings of happiness by paying close attention to positive experiences from the past, present, or future. Savoring positive experiences includes using one’s five senses to relish daily moments. Things like laughing (using humor), listening to music, enjoying an excellent meal, being in the company of a good friend.

Happiness is known to be significantly correlated with productivity, performance, and job satisfaction. Happier people, especially the ones who frequently experience positive emotions, are often more productive and more satisfied with their jobs and lives. By moving from low personal positive well-being (PPWB) to high PPWB, an increase in (self-assessed) productivity in the region of 40% might be expected. Although this is based on an associative study, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that happiness is a significant contributor to cause. We therefore assume that productivity improves by up to 40% as individuals progress from low to high states of happiness. Assuming 30% of the population were “unhappy” in some measure, the potential population impact would be around 12%.

At the Behavioral Research and Applied Technology Laboratory, we researched nine happiness habits that could improve productivity and divided them into three categories: Foster, Focus and Savor. In this series, we explore the nine happiness habits and examine the value that each one can bring. We are on the second of three habits that make up Savoring Happiness which is cherishing positive experiences.

Cherish the Good – Make the Change

A savoring process is a sequence of mental or physical operations that transform a positive event into positive feelings over time. A savoring response is a particular tangible thought or behavior that intensifies or reduces the strength or prolongs or shortens the duration of positive feelings. Savoring responses include:

  • Sharing your experience with others
  • Deliberately building memories
  • Congratulating yourself
  • Paying more attention to your senses
  • Getting absorbed in something you love
  • Counting your blessings (yes, your grandma was right!)

Using more of these savoring strategies in a wider range of situations will increase your happiness by 24% compared to using fewer strategies in a limited range of situations. In one study, participants who took a 20-minute walk every day for one week and consciously looked for good things reported feeling happier than those who were instructed to look for bad things. In fact, using cognitive imagery to create a savoring experience for 10 minutes twice a day for one week increases how often happiness is felt or experienced by 8%.

People who outwardly express their good feelings tend to feel extra good, because it provides the mind with prima facie evidence that something positive has occurred. Several experiments have found that people who expressed their feelings while watching a funny video enjoyed themselves more than those who suppressed their feelings.

Here are some ways to savor:

  • Using your five senses to relish daily moments.
  • Being mindful of perceptions, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings when appreciating someone else
  • Paying attention to something positive or a positive event.
  • Comparing good experiences with unpleasant ones creates a reference point that makes us appreciate the good ones
  • Pausing and reflecting on positive experiences in the moment or on the spot.
  • Paying attention and taking real or mental pictures.
  • Being loud: laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy when something good happens to you.
  • Reveling in your successes (self-congratulation and self-focus is encouraged).

How to do it – try these exercises!

Exercise 1: Take a moment to imagine your life in the future. What is the best possible life you can imagine? Consider all the relevant areas of your life, such as your career, relationships, hobbies, and health. What would happen in these areas of your life in your best possible future? Don’t hold back, let your imagination roam into the world of possibility, keeping it real but unhampered by the restrictions of your current circumstances.

Exercise 2: For 10 minutes, write continuously about what you imagine this best possible future to be. Use the instructions below to help guide you through this process.

  1. Focus on the future—imagine a brighter future in which you are your best self and your circumstances change just enough to make this best possible life happen.
  2. Make it specific—if you think about a new job, imagine exactly what you would do, who you would work with, and where it would be. The more specific you are, the more engaged you will be in the exercise and the more you’ll get out of it.
  3. Be as creative and imaginative as you want, and don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just get it down.

Whenever good things happen to us, there is significant emotional and mental value in hanging on to those moments for an extended period. It is easy to become bogged down in cycles of negative thought about things that have gone wrong, but it’s much harder to do the opposite. We therefore benefit from being deliberate about observing or capturing the good moments and cherishing them again and again. This is the savoring process. Go ahead, have a good laugh!


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