Reasons to be cheerful
What better way to start 2011 than with the notion that you will get happier and happier? That’s provided you are over 46 and past the dreaded U-bend in life.

According to a growing breed of happiness experts, at the start of adult life people are generally pretty cheerful. Things go downhill until you hit your mid-life crisis when the pressures of work, finances, teenage children and aged parents often collide. Once these things plateau, what you lose thereafter in vitality, mental sharpness and looks, you stand to gain in contented happiness.

Interestingly in Bhutan, the concept of Gross National Happiness shapes the planning process. Closer to home, leading economists in France have been asked to devise a broader measure of national contentedness that GDP. Even in Britain, the coalition government is making noises about collecting data on well-being. There a team of economists led by Prof Andrew Oswald of Warwick Business School has produced research that suggests there are clear links between workers’ happiness and their productivity. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.”

Among the subjects in one test who reported higher happiness levels after seeing a short comedy film, productivity was significantly higher than for the other subjects, for both men and women. The Warwick economists noted: “Happier workers, our research found, were 12% more productive. Unhappier workers were 10% less productive.” 

“Given the extraordinarily homogeneous sample of our subjects, the difference in productivity was unexpectedly striking,” they wrote in the University of Warwick’s Economic Research Institute journal. “If happiness in the workplace brings increased returns to productivity, then HR departments, business managers and the architects of promotion policies will want to consider the implications.” So, even if middle age awaits, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a light at the end of the U-bend. In the meantime, bring on Tom and Jerry…

There’s a light at the end of the U-bend.

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