Most people remember the iconic bright yellow smiley face. The objective in developing the famous picture was originally conceived as part of a campaign by the State Mutual Life Assurance Company to raise employee morale in 1963 after a series of mergers and acquisitions. Since then, the image has appeared in countless ways and places, but there is so much more to smiling than just remembering the smiley face.

Fortunately, happiness is directly associated with smiling. The act of smiling is a reflection of attitude, just like frowning. Even though they do not always mirror the inner thoughts of what is on the mind of someone, smiles do have a tendency to convey an attitude of friendliness and openness. Psychology Professor Dan Gilbert of Harvard has made a career out of studying happiness. His recent research indicates there is some real science behind the smile and happiness. His best selling book Stumbling on Happiness shows many of the ways we choose to look at being happy or sad.

In research conducted by Gilbert, the results on happiness are fascinating. He goes on to say “in general people who are in good romantic relationships are happier than those who aren’t. Healthy people are happier than sick people. People who participate in their churches are happier than those don’t. Rich people are happier than poor people. And so on.” While there is not much that is very new in the above research, Gilbert did determine that event driven happiness or sadness had an impact of around three months. “When good things happen, we celebrate for a while and then sober up. When bad things happen, we weep and whine for a while and then pick ourselves up and get on with it” he says.

Gilbert addresses the emotions behind happiness and the various ways it has been studied, but in particular, measured. He  says “There are many ways to measure happiness. We can ask people ‘How happy are you right now?’ and have them rate it on a scale. We can use magnetic resonance imaging to measure cerebral blood flow, or electro to graphs to measure the activity of the ‘smile muscles’ in the face. But in most circumstances those measures are highly correlated, and you’d have to be the federal government to prefer the complicated, expensive measures over the simple, inexpensive one.” With that thought in mind, when people are asked how happy they are, they can give us a close approximation to how they are feeling. A rating scale is the preferred choice of measure. This is obviously, the simplified, simple and inexpensive approach to measuring happiness.

His main point in all of this is that people are resilient, they have a tendency to make the best of whatever cards they have been dealt. Another key point to keep employees happy is to set realistic goals for them, not goals that are unachievable.

Glibert says “If I had to summarize all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be ‘social.’ We are by far the most social species on earth; If I wanted to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about your social network—about your friends and family and the strengths of your bonds with them.”

He goes on to suggest that in order to increase our happiness “the main things are to commit to some simple behaviors— meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep— and to practice altruism.” Helping others is one of the key ingredients in being happy.

James McConnell, a psychologist from the University of Michigan said “People who smile tend to manage, teach and sell more effectively, and to raise happier children. There’s far more information in a smile than a frown. That’s why encouragement is a much more effective teaching device than punishment.”

Whether it is because it provides an opportunity for others to see they are better off than someone else or whether it is a more pure form of altruism, it will certainly help you in the process. In the business world of today, there are ample opportunities to help others. In the process of helping others, it might just help your business. Clearly, if given the choice, a person is far better off to present a smile rather than a frown in order to carry the day and be a positive influencer in helping to grow a business and be happy in the process.

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