Want to provide the fuel to drive your team to higher levels of success and performance? The fuel is happiness. Ground breaking research in the fields of positive psychology and neuroscience has shown that happiness is the precursor to success - not merely the result. And happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement.

How do scientists define "happiness?" Scientists boil down happiness to the experience of positive emotions - pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood now and a positive outlook for the future. Franklin Roosevelt had the basic idea when he said "happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort".

How Can we Increase Happiness and Create a More Positive Mindset?
Over 200 studies on over 275,000 people worldwide found that happiness leads to success in nearly every domain - including the mail industry! Research has found that our brains are hardwired to perform best when they are in a positive state, not negative or even neutral. How do we build more happiness into our lives and the lives of our team members? Here are some ideas that we can use ourselves and share with our team members (from Dr. Shawn Anchor's excellent book The Happiness Advantage):

Meditate/Pray: Research has shown that a few minutes per day of regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

Find Something to Look Forward To: We know that often the most enjoyable part of any special activity is the anticipation. One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27%. If you can't take the time out right now for a vacation or a special night out with friends, put something on the calendar, even if it's weeks out. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it (I know this works - I just thought ahead to my summer vacation with my family and I feel instantly happier!).

Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness: Research has shown that acts of intentional altruism (kindness) decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health. You can try this for yourself by picking one day where you intentionally complete five acts of kindness. You may be surprised at your increased level of happiness - and the recipients of your kindness will feel happier too!

Infuse Positivity into Your Surroundings: Our physical environment can have a significant impact on our mindset and sense of well-being. We can intentionally infuse our work areas with images that spark positive emotions - pictures of family and friends and pets, and reminders of our favorite sports teams or special experiences in our lives. Making time to go outside on a nice day is also uplifting - and one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but also broadened thinking and improved memory.

We can also change our surroundings to minimize negative emotions. A good place to start is to watch less TV. Studies have shown that the less TV we watch (especially violent and negative programs) the happier we are.
Exercise and Physical Activity: Exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins and has other benefits. Physical activity can boost mood, improve motivation and feelings of mastery, reduce stress and anxiety, and help us get into a flow of engagement and productivity. One landmark study on depressed people showed that exercise was just as effective as anti-depressants in the short run, and in the long run, exercise was significantly more effective.

Spend money (but not on stuff): Research has shown that money spent on activities (e.g. group dinners, concerts, sporting events) brought far more pleasure than material purchases likes shoes, TVs, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people also boosts happiness.

Exercise Signature Strength: Studies have shown that the more we use our signature strengths the happier we become. We all have multiple things that we are good at. Each time we use a skill we are good at we experience a burst of positivity. If you need a happiness booster, try using a talent you have not used for awhile.
Researchers have found that exercising strength of character is even more fulfilling than using a skill. A team of psychologists have identified 24 character strengths that most contribute to human flourishing. They developed a 240 question survey that identifies a person's top five "signature strengths" (you can take this survey for free; go to www.viasurvey.org). In a study volunteers were asked to pick one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week. These volunteers became significantly happier and less depressed than controls groups. And these heightened levels of happiness remained six months later when re-examined.

Motivating Your Team
The best managers use the Happiness Advantage as a means to motivate their teams and maximize individual and team potential. Research has shown that even small moments of positivity in the workplace can enhance efficiency, creativity, motivation, and productivity. One was to do this simply is to is to provide frequent recognition and encouragement. One study found that teams with encouraging managers performed 31% better than teams with managers who were less positive and less open with praise! Recognition can take many forms - verbal thanks, complimentary emails, written notes, and can include meaningful tokens of appreciation like gift cards, certificates of appreciation, or food.

Let me close with this perspective from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give." One of the great privileges we have as managers is to help bring increased happiness into the lives of our team members. It will benefit them individually - and spark the team to new levels of performance.

Good luck to you as you use the fuel of happiness to drive yourself and your team to higher levels of success!

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 820,000 customers. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MailCom, FUSION and others. He manages the bill presentment and payment processing teams with the able assistance of supervisors Eric Houger, Tom Laszlo, Gil Rodriguez and Rick VanBeek. Wes can be contacted at Wes.Friesen@pgn.com. Check out his personal web-site for free information (wesfriesen.com).