In November 2017, Inspired to Change were voted the UKs Happiest Team at the Laughology Awards.

But how do they create this happy environment?

Tamsen Garrie, Director of Culture at Inspired To Change shares her top tips.

To increase individual and collective happiness, we need to keep ourselves and those we live and work with dosed up with a cocktail of ‘Happy Hormones’, but what is a happy hormone?


A happy hormone is simply a hormone (or in some cases, technically, a neurotransmitter) that makes us feel good.

So, what does this DOSE cocktail involve?

D is for DOPAMINE and it’s also for DRIVE.

Dopamine literally drives our brain’s reward system, urging us to seek pleasure and motivating us to achieve goals.  It regulates our emotional responses, enabling us not only to identify where rewards might be, but also to take action to move toward them.

Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain which is why when we receive recognition or praise, we get a dopamine hit which makes us feel good.   A lack of dopamine can result in a lack of enthusiasm and motivation and in self-doubt and procrastination.

O is for OXYTOCIN and it’s also for ONENESS.

Oxytocin is also known as the ‘love’ or the ‘hug’ hormone, because it makes us feel connected and loved.  It plays a role in empathy, intimacy and trust and it regulates social interaction, enabling us to both build and maintain healthy relationships.

Most types of connection with others increase the level of oxytocin the brain, which is why when we hug a loved one, a friend or a colleague, we get an oxytocin hit which makes us feel good.  A lack of oxytocin can result in isolating behaviour, feelings of loneliness and enhanced fear and distrust.

S is for SEROTONIN and it’s also for STABILITY.

Serotonin helps us to maintain mood balance, because it regulates anxiety, sleep, appetite and digestion, making us feel calmer, clearer and more emotionally settled.  It regulates memory and learning, enabling us to feel more focused and it also plays a role in social behaviour, making us more amiable and social.

A healthy mind and body increases the level of serotonin in the brain, which is why when we get enough sleep, eat well and look after ourselves, we feel good.  A lack of serotonin can cause anxiety, irritability, insomnia, pain, panic and depression.

E is for ENDORPHINS and it’s also for EASE.

There are, in excess of 20 endorphins that our brain produces, helping us to maintain general physical and psychological wellness.  They regulate emotional and physiological responses, by interacting with the opiate receptors (our natural painkillers) in the brain, enabling us to cope with stress and anxiety and physical ailments and pain.

Exercise and laughter as well as foods like chocolate and chillies secrete endorphins, which enhance feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, increase immunity and modulate appetite, which is why when we have high endorphin levels, we feel good.  Low levels of endorphins can manifest in lethargy, reduced tolerance to pain, anxiety and/or stress and a myriad of unexplained physical disorders.


So, what can we do to intentionally increase these happy hormones in our team so that they feel ‘good’ more often?

We can do this by applying the Three Principles of Positivity:

Positive Thinking.
How we think as individuals affects what we experience, so changing the way we think plays an essential role in changing how we feel.  This is also true about collective thinking.  When we think in a positive way, we take more positive action and we interact more positively with others, generating all the happy hormones we need.  When a group of people work together, they begin to influence how each other thinks and so encouraging a culture of positive thought will generate a culture of happiness.

Positive Action.
This is about doing things that will lead to positive outcomes, whether that’s individually or collectively, because positive outcomes give us the very thing we need to create more positive outcomes – it has a compounding effect.  Small actions, that in themselves might seem insignificant, make a big difference and lead to more small actions.  The action of doing it releases dopamine which motivates us to do more.

Positive interaction.
This is about connecting with others.  Whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert, to some degree, all human beings are social beings.  Social connection and interaction is important.  When we interact with others in a positive way we boost our levels of serotonin and oxytocin, which encourages us to interact more.


Ten top tips for incorporating the three principles of positivity::

Tip one:
A shared vision gives a team a shared purpose and is what binds the individuals in the team together, creating oxytocin. Involve the team in designing their vision.  Engage them in defining both the what and the why and encourage them to get clear about what’s in it for them, both individually and collectively, producing dopamine and therefore the motivation to make it happen.

Tip two:
Teams are happiest when they share a set of values and behave in accordance with those values. Involve the team in creating the team culture together, creating a sense of ‘oneness’, stimulating oxytocin and elevating the importance of the team above any individual within it.

Tip three:
Common goals give a team a shared focus and breaking a big vision down into incremental goals helps the brain to recognise the ‘win’ at each interval, producing serotonin and dopamine and propelling the team onto the next goal. Bring the team together at key intervals throughout the year, to discuss and collectively decide on the intended outcome for that period.

Tip four:
Intentional positive actions enable teams to achieve more, more often which produces dopamine and more positive action. Get into the habit of creating a weekly focus, in addition to the vision and goals.  So for instance, small projects that everyone plays a part in like clearing the office, updating the database or filing away all paperwork.

Tip five:
Starting each day or meeting with a positive mindset creates serotonin, so start conversations with the question ‘what’s been good?’ and incorporate a principle of ‘gratitude’ by asking people to list things that they are grateful for, proud of and excited about to remind them that they are valued and they have things and people that they value.

Tip six:
Celebrating wins, no matter how small gives us serotonin and dopamine, the very thing we need to create more wins. Incorporate regular celebration into your team culture and get into the habit of marking wins, no matter how small with something meaningful, whether that’s a high five, a congratulatory email, round of drinks on a Friday or a reward of some description.

Tip seven:
Feeling valued and supported stimulates oxytocin and serotonin and keeps teams feeling valued, engaged and motivated. Have regular meetings purely for the purpose of enabling encouragement, support and help for each other.

Tip eight:
Laughter produces serotonin and endorphins which enables teams to deal with pressure and stress effectively. Encourage healthy banter and jokes and share funny videos intentionally to keep those endorphins flowing.

Tip nine:
The healthier your team, the more endorphins that flow and the happier they are, so encourage ample rest, sleep, exercise and time with loved ones.

Tip ten:
The power of intent is underestimated. Decide to be a happy team and the rest will come relatively easy.


If you’d like to discuss how we can support your organisation and your people,