4 Gamified Happiness Hacks to Improve Productivity


How can you increase your happiness, and consequently your productivity, while working on your next great idea?

Nicole Lazzaro understands how emotions play into gaming, and she’s leveraged that knowledge into a fascinating career. Now the President of XEODesign, Inc., she’s been named one of the Top 20 women working in video games by Gamasutra and one of the 100 most influential women in high tech by Fast Company.

At the 2014 Gsummit conference hosted by Gamification.co (this was one of the events I covered for TechnologyAdvice), Lazzaro discussed happiness and how to scientifically optimize it. It may seem complicated on the surface, but in reality it’s just a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle that go a long way to live a more productive life. She described the four chemicals that contribute to feeling happy and how, if we can learn to purposefully (and legally) increase those chemicals, our mood—and consequently our productivity—will take a turn for the better.

Lazzaro used DOSE as an acronym for the four chemicals the brain releases when we feel happy:

  • Dopamine’s released prior to a happy event occurring rather than during the event itself. It’s an anticipation chemical.

  • Oxytocin’s released when physically close to another person, or when making eye contact. It helps to create strong relational bonds, and is sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone.”

  • Serotonin levels play a more direct role in happiness. When levels are high, you’ll feel good. Low levels lead to feeling poorly. Additionally, Lazzaro noted that 80 percent of a person’s serotonin exists in their gut, so there’s a physical reason why hunger leads to anger or other unhappy emotions.

  • Endorphins are the “fight-or-flight” chemicals as they kick in when our bodies or minds feel threatened. It masks pain. On the other hand, Lazzaro said that endorphins also serve to help push people to achieve high goals, as an endorphin kick can help a person push through pain or difficulty.

Lazzaro encourages people to seek practical ways to amp up their DOSE of happiness. In other words, by designing daily experiences that activate these chemicals, you can increase your happiness and productivity. For example:

Listen to music (the right kind of music)

Focus@Will “delivers various ‘attention amplifying’ music stations scientifically designed to engage with your brain's limbic system” that can help you become more focused and productive. Per Focus@Will’s website, “This soothes the easily distracted fight or flight mechanism increasing attention span and general focus.” This is a tool I use daily and I’ve seen surprising results in my focus and ability to get more work done faster.

Make eye contact.

It’s a small but important part of creating meaningful relationships. As you do this, oxytocin will release, working to create a better bond between you and your team. This is what I enjoy about co-working spaces and the EC’s collaborative environment. More engagement creates more oxytocin which produces additional personal significance in the work that is accomplished.

Visualize your wins.

While it’s oftentimes not recommended to count your chickens before they’ve hatched, visualizing positive outcomes for your business endeavors can help release dopamine into your brain, preparing you for any victories, and even any challenges, you may experience that day.

Eat at a scheduled time.

By understanding your body’s hunger needs (e.g. you always need a snack at 4 p.m.), you’ll help yourself feel better by ensuring that your serotonin maintains a healthy level.

The Interview was conducted by Clark Buckner from TechnologyAdvice.com

For more from Nicole Lazzaro on DOSEing your life, listen to the podcast interview above or, for more on Lazzaro’s gamification work, listen to another insight interview (it was so great I had to break it into 2 parts) “Changing the World Is One Big Game.”

In looking at the four chemicals the brain DOSEs us in order to make us feel happy, what other productivity-enhancing tips would you add?