Why moments of joy make us happier, healthier and more productive

By Caroline Hampson | Reflective


Have you ever had times when certain words or expressions really have an impact with you, you actually feel the physical smile coming across your face and they spark your thinking? And then there are others which lead to a slight wrinkle of the nose, or a pursing of the lips and you have to work hard to get inspired by them?

That described my initial perceptions many months ago with regards to practicing gratitude. Logically I got it, I could understand why it was a good idea, I tried it but wasn’t very consistent about it. But then curiosity got the better of me because if so many people were talking about its benefits there must be more to it than I was seeing and feeling.

The result of plenty of reading, research, podcasts and some great conversations with my wonderful friend and colleague Caroline M, I now have an answer as to why it’s moments of joy that make me happier, healthier and more productive. And practising gratitude has helped me to understand the importance of recognising these “little moments of happiness that make us feel more alive”,  as designer Ingrid Fetell Lee calls them.

Read on to explore the 3 reasons you and your teams could benefit from creating and recognising moments of joy every day.

1. Healthier

The benefits of feeling more joy include less chance of having a heart attack, lower cholesterol, decreased stress levels, boost our resilience and gives us the strength and energy we need to be our best selves every day. It can be very easy for joy to get hidden in our busy, chaotic worlds unless we take the time to look for it, to recognise it and celebrate it.

Research conducted at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology of Glasgow suggests there are really only four foundation emotions, three of which are the “negative emotions” of fear, anger and sadness. The only “positive emotion” on the list is joy. Although the research doesn’t look into what proportion of our time we spend in each, the fact that they are 3:1 in favour of negative emotions suggests many of us find it easier to look for or recall the negative more than we do the positive? 

Try this: Set an alarm on your phone for 3 or 4 different times during the day. When it goes off give yourself 2 minutes of pause to think about the last couple of hours and ask yourself this question;
What was the best moment for me over the last couple
 of hours and why?

Don’t let yourself off with the first why, explore a little deeper with at least another two more why’s. Do this for a number of days and be curious about the insights and patterns it's showing you. Begin to make the connections between what’s happening in the moment and how it makes you feel.

2. Happier

One early morning last week, as I was walking my dogs through the park, out of the long grass came a mother duck proudly walking her very tiny baby ducklings to the nearby pond. The scene immediately made me smile and want to follow their progress.

Reflecting on why the impact was so strong took me to realising that the picture of tiny new life in the ducklings, and the pride of their mother in her new family, was still happening irrespective of the world around them.  I also then got to thinking how this applied to my day ahead,  looking for the good things that are still happening despite the challenges a global pandemic is putting on us all at the moment. It was as Ingrid Fetell Lee talked about,  “a little moment of happiness that makes us feel more alive”. As an aside you wouldn’t believe how many people also appear to be getting joy from watching ducklings at the moment and the conversations it creates on walks in the park!

Try this: For the next week, at the end of each day write down 3 things that have brought you joy during the day. Notice as the week goes by how your consciousness of joy changes;

  • How much more conscious are you of it? 
  • Do you actively put things into your day that give you joy? ​
  • Who contributes to joy in your day…
  • How have you contributed to bringing joy to others?

3. More productive 

An article from Harvard Health evidences the link between happiness and productivity. When you are doing work that brings you joy you find yourself in a state of flow; You work effortlessly, you aren’t interrupted by thoughts that distract you, you loose awareness of time. This doesn’t provide us with an excuse to not do work that we find boring, tedious or simply don’t want to do. What it does encourage us to do is to look at the balance of our work, and our mindset going into certain tasks. The more we can link work to something that brings us joy,  make it meaningful, the more productive we become.

Try this: Looking at your diary for the week ahead;
What are the things that make you smile at the thought of them, what are you really looking forward to doing?
It could be getting your teeth into a tricky problem, a catch up call with a colleague, learning a new system. At the moment it could be as simple as actually being at work with people rather than separated by a laptop screen.

Now look at the things that you have less enthusiasm for.  Look for meaning in those tasks using the following questions:
Are they important to someone else? If so how can you reframe your mindset to see the joy in helping others?
If you’re putting off a difficult conversation, what specifically is it that’s making it difficult? What do you need to know, or who do you need to ask for help from to make it easier. How can you look beyond the conversation and imagine how it will feel once it's completed? ​



For everyone who wants to be happier, healthier and more productive remember ;

"Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary“ 

Brene Brown 


How will you be finding joy in the ordinary today?


About the Author

Caroline is coach and facilitator who has been working with companies around the world for the past 10 years. She is passionate about helping people develop outstanding leadership.

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