We are delighted to welcome Stephanie Harrison, the Founder of The New Happy, to the Bene Blog! An expert on happiness and well-being, Stephanie founded The New Happy to share a new science-backed philosophy of happiness.
Last week, Stephanie joined me on Instagram Live to share the true meaning of happiness, how to reinforce happiness within the workplace and so much more. If you missed the discussion, you can check that out HERE and then read on for a deep dive into Stephanie’s philosophy and what we can all do to achieve happiness in our everyday lives.
Nina Westbrook: With previous leadership positions at Thrive Global, LinkedIn, and Deloitte Counseling, you are quite knowledgeable in corporate well-being and what it takes to create a happier workplace culture. Can you please share how your journey began, how you discovered your passion for finding the true meaning of happiness, and what you found was missing in the workplace that made it difficult to achieve happiness?
Stephanie Harrison: I went to college in New York City. I remember I was taking the subway to my internship one day and I looked around at my fellow commuters. Everyone looked so depleted, tired, and sad. I wondered if it would be possible to make work better, turning it into a vehicle for meaning, joy, and impact.
I have been exploring that idea in my career ever since. I started my career as a management consultant, helping companies to transform their organizational culture. I then moved on to work at LinkedIn in a number of different roles, connecting people with better jobs using our technology products. While I was there, I also pursued a Master Degree in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. After five years at LinkedIn, I went to Thrive Global where I led Learning and was responsible for developing a number of cutting-edge, science-backed programs and a technology platform to help employees around the world transform their well-being.
It was while I was at Penn that The New Happy was born. For my thesis, I investigated where our society had gotten happiness wrong and what the research said about how we could fix it. The New Happy started as a simple weekly newsletter in 2018, sharing insights about how to find lasting happiness, and has evolved over the years, especially after moving to focus full-time on it in 2020.
NW: You have been studying the topic of happiness since high school, sparked by a trip to India where you volunteered at a leprosy mission that built their community around the idea that meaningful work could be a lever of well-being. Can you go into further detail about the personal experiences you’ve had that led you to want to share your message?
SH: I had the incredible opportunity to serve at the Anandwan mission while I was in high school. They built a collective where those who were most ill-treated by society were able to find belonging, love, and well-being. At the heart of the mission’s philosophy was the belief that everyone has something important to contribute, and in doing so within a supportive community, it leads to well-being.
This experience has stayed with me. In our individualistic culture, we are taught that happiness is all about ‘me’ – but what I learned then is that it’s actually about ‘we’. It’s a fundamental need to be able to give and to receive, all using our own unique gifts. Everyone has something important to give to the world, and in doing so, they are able to find joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
NW: When founding The New Happy, you intended on creating an organization built to advance the science-backed message that happiness comes from helping others. Can you please share a little more about the goal of this organization?
SH: I believe that if more people recognized that their own lasting happiness comes from being of service to others, we would be able to solve the greatest problems that our world faces. Nothing would be impossible if we brought our full courage, creativity, and compassion to bear upon it.
The New Happy exists to help people to see the ways in which their personal happiness and the happiness of the world are intertwined and dependent upon one another – and then, how to start living in a new way. Right now, we’re focused on doing that through designing and delivering education across multiple channels, including artwork, animations, podcast, newsletter, articles, and free well-being challenges. I also have a book coming out from Penguin Random House in early 2024. We’re looking forward to expanding upon that in all sorts of exciting ways in the near future!
NW: Why is it so important to reinforce employee well-being? What role can leaders play in creating a happy culture?
SH: For too long, organizations have been able to get away with exploiting employee well-being, viewing it as either a ‘nice-to-have’ or more often, something that’s just ignored! It matters so, so much. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Second, it contributes to business outcomes. We’ve gotten it backward: employee well-being is what drives all of the outcomes that employers and managers want, including creativity, energy, ingenuity, better relationships with your team and customers, and so much more. If we put well-being first, then everything else will flow from there.
For managers, I advocate a simple maxim: your real job is to help your employees to cultivate their well-being. How will you help them to learn, grow, connect and serve today? This shift in intention can lead to a complete transformation within your workplace. If you’re a leader or in HR, and are responsible for shaping the broader culture, there are many ways to put employee well-being at the center, like who you celebrate, how you reward, and the policies you implement.
NW: When it comes to helping others, can you share 2-3 ways one can be more supportive, encouraging, and accepting?
SH: There are so many ways we can start to nourish our relationships differently, creating this sense of encouragement and appreciation. One of the best ways to help is to simply become more attuned to the good that exists all around us. We tend to miss it! We get distracted, we get accustomed, and at the end of the day, our brains are not naturally very good at noticing what’s going right. Take the time to just notice the goodness around you, or thank someone for what they did for you, or celebrate another person’s achievement. These moments of love can make such a profound difference, not just in their happiness, but in your own, too.
NW: What are 2-3 of the most effective steps we can all take to work towards global well-being?
SH: Every time you show up in a caring way for yourself and others, you’re creating a happier world. It can be as simple as taking care of your own well-being, like going for a morning walk, because you know it makes you a kinder person to your family or team. It’s asking someone, “How are you really doing?” and then listening to what they have to say, striving to help in any way you can. It’s speaking up when you see something that isn’t right, and advocating for a better way forward. These acts of care all make a difference and add up to a better world.
NW: Happiness is a complex phenomenon and it seems that figuring out how to achieve it can be an ongoing challenge. What is the true meaning of happiness in your opinion? Besides helping others, what are some ways one can achieve happiness?
SH: After my years of investigation, I’ve come to define happiness (and New Happy!) as being yourself and giving of yourself. How can you share your authenticity in a way that serves the world? It’s this integration of the individual and the greater impact that not only helps us to find happiness, but to create a happier world, too.