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Thrive: Jen Margolis and Jack Ricchiuto Spend Their Days Spreading Joy

By Anna Soref

Jen Margolis and Jack Ricchiuto spend their days spreading joy. Not only is it their job, but it’s their volunteer work as well. The duo run two Ohio-based organizations, Thrive and Thrive At Work, which teach adults tools for obtaining personal and professional happiness. Per a growing body of science, happiness is more than just the pursuit of fun; weaving it into your life improves health, promotes calm and even boosts work productivity. Helping others boost their happiness quotient makes for a rewarding way to earn a living, while building a more calmful planet.

Spreading Joy

Thrive came about in 2012 when three friends—Margolis and Ricchiuto, along with Thrive’s third founding member, Scott Simon—were discussing the psychology of happiness. Simon had recently attended a workshop on the subject, and both Margolis, a leadership and development coach and writer, and Ricchiuto, who’d recently penned his twenty-first book, The Joy of Thriving, wanted to learn more.

“We started talking about what it would look like to bring happiness to people in a practical way,” Margolis recounts. The threesome designed experiences to help people share happiness together, and the volunteer arm of Thrive was born. “We’d bring experiences to people like random acts of kindness, lunchtime dance parties downtown; Jack did a mindfulness experience through a pop-up tea ceremony,” Margolis says. When people started asking if they could do these events at work places, Thrive At Work was born.

The Happiness Equation

A core principle of Thrive and Thrive At Work is making individuals aware that they are responsible for their own happiness. “Happiness is actually a choice we make every day; it’s not a luxury. Science tells us that once a person has their basic needs met, about 80 percent of how we feel each day is in our control. Teaching people some simple ways to help themselves grow into their own happiness is where we land,” Margolis says.

Both Margolis and Ricchiuto agree that the goal of their work is not to have people avoid any stress or strive for eternal bliss. “I think a lot of people actually thrive and are happiest when they have some stress in their lives. We all need some stress to get us motivated. But we want to avoid that tipping point where stress becomes overwhelming,” says Margolis.

“Mindfulness is a medium for joy, happiness, gratitude and meaning. When people gain a greater sense of these dimensions of happiness, they experience less stress.”

Thrive offers activities including meditation, role playing, movement, group collaboration and art. Mindfulness is an example of a happiness tool that Thrive offers participants. “The less mindful we are, the more stressed we are,” Ricchiuto says. “Mindfulness is a medium for joy, happiness, gratitude and meaning. When people gain a greater sense of these dimensions of happiness, they experience less stress.”

Promoting a sense of awe is an example of a Thrive technique used to engender mindfulness and happiness. “Awe is that feeling of wonder and amazement that your brain doesn’t really have a template for,” explains Margolis. “Awe can give a break from stress and increases happiness. It’s empowering to show people that they can find awe in everyday moments.”

A Smile’s Ripple Effect

Through Thrive At Work, Margolis and Ricchiuto have brought their happiness message to employees at large corporations such as Cleveland Clinic and Progressive Insurance and at small organizations as well. “We are teaching people how to find their strengths and passions. It’s transformative. It’s getting people feeling much more connected together at work, and connection is such a deep cause of joy,” Ricchiuto comments.

Spreading happiness has had a profound effect not just on Thrive participants but on both Margolis and Ricchiuto. “It’s been transformational to have this experience of not only working from our own passions, strengths and mission but then also seeing the impact it can create in other people’s lives,” relates Margolis. “It’s a tremendous feeling of abundance, really.”

Ricchiuto concurs, adding that the ripple effect that happiness can have brings another level of purpose to their work. “There’s legitimate science that happiness is contagious. It literally spreads through social networks,” Ricchiuto explains. “For me, that is a huge selling point for why this work matters. Consider when you walk into a home, a school or your work, you can feel the energy, and it’s directly related to how happy or stressed out people are. That’s a trickle-down effect that’s very worthwhile on this planet right now.”


Tips for Experiencing Awe

Experiencing moments of awe can promote happiness and mindfulness, according to happiness experts Jen Margolis and Jack Ricchiuto. They offer these simple ways to experience awe in everyday moments.

    • During your day, pause and ask yourself what’s around you right now that you find beautiful. It can be something as mundane as a pen on your desk, for example. Consider all that went into making that pen—an amazing design, and the bending of the metal and the plastic to make that happen. When you pause for just a moment to think about it, there’s so much awe to be had around us in everyday things.

    • Go out into nature and pause and just notice what you are hearing, seeing and feeling. This can be a simple one-minute awe experience. Research shows that you can even experience awe by watching a nature video.

    • Grab some secondhand awe by encouraging someone to share a story of when they’ve experienced that special feeling of wonder. You’ll experience the feeling of awe just by hearing it from them, and they re-experience it by telling it.