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Do what makes you happy

In this season of commencement addresses, happiness is trending. All over the country, esteemed speakers from diverse fields are telling graduates to "do what makes them happy." Happiness is also what we, in the kids' media business, are selling. After all, if our products don't elicit smiles, something is seriously wrong.
June 25, 2014

In this season of commencement addresses, happiness is trending. All over the country, esteemed speakers from diverse fields are telling graduates to “do what makes them happy.” Happiness is also what we, in the kids’ media business, are selling. After all, if our products don’t elicit smiles, something is seriously wrong :).

Happiness, however, is not necessarily tied to the business of making money.  In his best-selling book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard professor David Gilbert cites a study showing that the long-term effect of money on happiness makes little difference to earners once basic middleclass needs are met. USC professor Richard Easterlin, also gave credibility to the theory, calling it the Easterlin Paradox.

But if success doesn’t guarantee happiness, can happiness guarantee success? I Googled “happy” to see if I could find an answer. No shock, Pharrell Williams was the number one hit. Seems as though a happy song is a sure winner. Happy videos even sparked a worldwide phenomenon when played on YouTube in Iran. According to a recent New York Times article by Natalie Kitroeff, “if you want to melt the Internet, best to traffic in emotion, researchers have found. The emotional response can be happy or sad, but the more intense it is, the more likely the story is to be passed along.” I suspect this is true with products and media as well.

I also discovered that the word “happy” itself is a silver bullet.  Remember the movie Happy Feet? Its dancing penguins dominated the happy and hectic holiday season in 2006. (Take that, Santa Claus!) Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a book about wisdom and ways to be happy, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

In another play on words, Live Happy is a new magazine that’s part of Live Happy LLC. The mission of the company is to impact the world through a happiness movement. Who could resist such a promise? Obviously, not many, since the magazines are flying off the shelves after only four issues. Similarly, the highly successful  #100HappyDays encourages people to post something good in their life every day on social media.

Happy Meals aside, there is also serious research around happy food. Nutritionists and scientists have identified numerous psychological and pharmacological effects of chocolate, targeting the compounds that stimulate the release of feel-good endorphins. Which would you rather: an apple a day or a Hershey’s Kiss?

Despite what Jimmy Ruffin once told us, happiness is not an illusion, but a productive state of mind. It makes us more creative, collaborative, and caring.

As trend-setting Pharrell Williams puts it, “Happiness is the truth.” So, grab a piece of chocolate, whistle a happy tune, and do what you love. And if there’s still time, inject the word “happy” into your next product name.

Tell me what makes you happy: wendy@sandboxsummit.org.

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