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The internet can harm your productivity by making you sad – here's what to do

In September, the first positivity officers of the United Arab Emirates’s Ministry for Happiness will begin their training in happiness science, a program designed for them by the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford University. The UAE established its Happiness Ministry in February. In July, the government of Madhya Pradesh state in India followed suit.

Typically, when governments set out to improve their citizens’ subjective wellbeing, they present the idea as a worthy end in itself. That’s not to be sniffed at. But there is another side to this pursuit. Plenty of evidence shows that happy people are not only healthier in the long run (and therefore less costly to the state), but also better worker bees.

A simple experiment demonstrates this. When volunteers are asked to perform easy mathematical tasks many times over in return for modest per-task payment, they do about 10% more work if they have just watched a few minutes of a comedy show. If they watch a boring video instead, or simply don’t find the show uplifting, the effect isn’t there.

Outside of the lab, software programmers are better at solving analytical problems when they are happier. Putting lots of workers together, employees’ job satisfaction levels today can even predict a firm’s value on Wall Street a year down the road.

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