The ROI of Happiness & Why it Matters

The link between happiness and well-being is well documented so is the ripple effect on engagement and performance.

Research into the neuroscience of happiness highlights the role played by positive emotions on people’s mental health. Neuroscientists and psychologists have been investigating the brain states associated with happiness. and their direct relationship with well-being. Studies have shown that positive emotions can improve physical health while promoting confidence, self-care, and compassion. They can help lessen negative inner chatter and saboteurs, and sustain well-being in the long term.

As human beings, we are wired for connection. We need to trust, to be seen and heard to feel happy.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory has paved the way to the flourishing of studies around the nature of positive emotions, known as positive psychology.

In recent years, studies into applied neuroscience have shown the brain’s response to certain stimuli that are said to be primary contributors towards sustainable well-being. In his theory, Maslow illustrates how self-realisation can only be obtained when all underlying needs are satisfied in turn. The level of self-actualisation or one’s sense of purpose in life or IKIGAI (our reason for being) or simply one’s happiness, is directly proportional to the satisfaction experienced in fulfilling those needs.

Positive psychology has been studying happiness since the early 90’, building on Maslow’s legacy. Its founder, Martin Seligman, defines happiness as being living a good life, a positive life, and a meaningful life. According to Seligman, happiness does not always depend on our social status, religion, or physical beauty. Happiness is a unique combination of what he called “distinctive strengths”, such as a sense of humanity, temperance, persistence, and the ability to lead a meaningful life. In his studies, he was motivated by the desire to identify the triggers of positive emotions, with a focus on the processes, dynamics, and situations that would mostly impact people’s health, performance and overall satisfaction with life, ultimately helping people to be happier and to live a happier life. Seligman’s research led him to discover that happiness can be built by working on three specific aspects as shown below:

First, in order to have a pleasant life, which consists of encouraging positive emotions and embed them in everyday living, Seligman proposed to:
  • Cultivate compassion and forgiveness;
  • Train the mind when negative emotions arise, suggesting mindfulness practice towards happiness as the expression of the present moment;
  • Nourish hope and optimism;

Secondly, to live a good life is about self-realisation: Happiness is about reaching one’s potential, to feel fuller, freer, and happier.

According to Seligman, tapping into one’s strengths requires constant practice to improve that potential. This practice takes two main dimensions, that draw on human virtues & personal strengths. Some human virtues are courage, love, and humanity. Among personal strengths, we find curiosity and interest in the world; love for knowledge and learning. Courage is connected with bravery, perseverance, integrity, honesty, and authenticity.

Humanity, as personal strength, resonates with sympathy, kindness & generosity among others.

Lastly, to live a meaningful life is the highest expression of self: It echoes Maslow’s top of the pyramid of needs, where self-actualisation is about using the virtues and strengths we developed to contribute to other people’s happiness. It’s about altruism and create a better world for everyone.

Seligman defines this as the exercise of goodness, the art of knowing how to elevate ourselves beyond mere personal pleasure to put ourselves at the service of those around us.


Monica Dettori
Monica Dettori
I am a forward-thinking, creative, and people-centric HR & OD Transformation Specialist, Human Potential & Wellness Coach. Ecosystems that have at heart the well-being and development of their people create sustainable cultures that ignite collective action and propel the organisation towards greater levels of performance. I enable the enterprise to foster a work environment in which people meaningfully and purposefully connect to the company's journey, taking an active part in the delivery of its vision and strategic goals. With over a decade of experience in the people profession, I have developed in-depth expertise and know-how in designing, implementing, leading on, and measuring the impact of people-centric interventions that have improved the employee's experience and strengthened the internal Employee Value Proposition (EVP). I bring a holistic, “whole person”, approach to sustain organisational development at scale, proactively responding to the challenges individuals, teams and leaders face today due to disruptive change, market’s unpredictability, and increasingly high uncertainty. Leveraging behavioural science, best-practice, coaching, and agile methodologies, I enable the organisation to move towards greater levels of performance, building the bridge between strategic and people’s needs, to promote a culture of empowerment, collaboration & continuous improvement that produces experiences people connect with and that ultimately lead to long term growth and a quantifiable return on investment (ROI). I am passionate about regenerative methodologies that create ripples of positive change at individual, organisational and societal level. A Nature’s devotee and outdoor enthusiast, I invest time in immersive experiences with the natural environment in alignment with my philosophy of Living Mindfully every day.

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