It's true that the little things in life often bring us the most joy.

For a baby, that could be simply the sound of ripping paper.

Maybe you've already seen the wildly popular YouTube video of 8-month old Micah laughing hysterically as his dad tears up a piece of paper. (It's a job rejection letter.)

If you haven't, take a look. (The video is embedded just below.) And just try to watch little Micah without cracking a smile.

The video has been viewed over 49 million times! That's a lot of smiles, clearly indicating that laughter is contagious.

Laughter spreads joy

Scientific research proves that when we're happy, we're more successful.

But wait. Isn't it the other way around?

Isn't it success that brings happiness? Don't I need to get A's in all my classes, graduate with honors, land my dream job, move up the corporate ladder, and become amazingly successful? And then, I'll be happy?

Research about the science of happiness conducted by internationally renowned positive psychology expert Shawn Achor indicates the opposite.

Being positive fuels success

In his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, Achor says that this commonly held formula for success – work harder, then you'll be successful, and then you'll be happier – is broken.

According to Achor, reversing the order of the formula is what brings greater happiness and greater success rates.

"Every single relationship, business and educational outcome improves when the brain is positive first," says Achor. "If you cultivate happiness while in the midst of your struggles, work, at school, while unemployed, or single, you increase your chances of attaining all the goals you are pursuing – including happiness."

Here's why

When we are positive, dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in our brains, is released. It's a neurotransmitter that carries signals to our brains that motivate us to do the things that will continue to make us happier. Dopamine is also the jet fuel for all of the learning centers in the brain, speeding up our thinking and mental alertness.

Achor says that when we are positive, our brains are 31 percent more efficient.

The key is training the brain to be positive, just as one trains his or her body to be physically fit. "We not only need to work happy, we need to work at being happy," he says.

Here are a few of the things Achor's research has indicated can help rewire the brain to be more positive when done for 21 days in a row.

  • Experience gratitude. Write down three new things you are grateful for each day.

  • Journal about the positive. Write for 2 minutes each day describing one positive experience you had during the past 24 hours.

  • Exercise for 10 minutes a day.

  • Meditate for 2 minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out.

  • Practice random acts of kindness. Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising someone in your social support network.

Honest Abe's Advice

The psychological and neuroscience research that support Achor's principle that positivity and happiness breed success are twenty-first century.

But the idea that you can train your brain to be positive? Maybe not as much.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be."

And he lived more than 140 years ago.

Way before viral videos of belly-laughing babies on YouTube.

Do you agree that happiness can empower you to be successful? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image Credit: Rido on Shutterstock