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6 Ways to Increase Happiness at Work and at Home

A new study explores which types of happiness interventions are most effective.

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Improving happiness is a challenging task these days, but it can be done. An analysis of 61 happiness interventions found that 96 percent of the interventions increased happiness and about half of the results were statistically significant.

A new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology shows exactly what types of happiness interventions are more successful than others.

The evidence suggests that cognitive-behavioral techniques, mindfulness interventions, and resiliency trainings are most effective at increasing happiness. Ergonomic, environmental, and physical activity interventions also show promise, but the data are more mixed.

“The current study revealed the effectiveness of interventions for increasing subjective well-being,” state the researchers, led by Asuka Sakuraya of Tokyo Women's Medical University in Japan. “Especially, psychological interventions (for example, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral-based approaches, and other psychological interventions) may be useful to improve subjective well-being.”

To come to this conclusion, the scientists analyzed the results of 39 studies conducted between 1997 and 2017. Most of these studies were administered in a workplace setting, but the results apply to other settings as well.

To compare the results, the researchers divided the findings into six categories, described below:

  1. Psychological interventions. The researchers found clear evidence that mindfulness trainings, as well as cognitive-behavioral trainings and resiliency trainings, increased people's well-being. One study found that an 8-week mindfulness training increased both job satisfaction and life satisfaction among teachers. Another study found that an 8-week training of work-family balance coping skills and positive parenting skills increased job satisfaction. Yet another study found that a 5-week resiliency training program increased people's sense of purpose and job satisfaction.
  2. Physical activity interventions. Physical activity programs—such as yoga, walking programs, light resistance training, and others—generally showed a modest positive effect on people's happiness. The results were particularly promising for a 13-week course that focused on a combination of muscle relaxation, strengthening, coordination, and flexibility exercises, as well as a 6-week Dru yoga intervention and a 24-week aerobic and weight-training course.
  3. Environmental interventions. Improving workplace dynamics—such as improving team communication or conducting manager trainings—showed modest beneficial effects on well-being.
  4. Ergonomics interventions. The results of postural trainings—such as sitting, standing, and walking exercises—on people's happiness levels were inconsistent. One study found that a 5-week ergonomics training course improved job satisfaction but two other studies showed no effect, or possibly even a negative effect, on people's mood.
  5. Multi-component interventions. Results suggest that single-component interventions may be more effective than multi-component interventions. A 3-month training that included physical activity, ergonomics, and psychological interventions showed no improvement in people’s sense of vitality and mental health. Another study showed minimal effects of a 12-week program focusing on physical activity, psychological coping, and stress management on people's levels of life satisfaction and job satisfaction.
  6. Others. Other interventions such as emotion-oriented care-giving and music therapy were shown to increase life satisfaction and job satisfaction. Another intervention that provided fresh fruit in the workplace for a period of 12-weeks was not shown to increase job satisfaction.

All of this research points to a simple conclusion: happiness interventions work, but some work better than others.

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Sakuraya, A., Imamura, K., Watanabe, K., Asai, Y., Ando, E., Eguchi, H., ... & Otsuka, Y. (2020). What Kind of Intervention Is Effective for Improving Subjective Well-Being Among Workers? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2884.