It possible to train yourself to become happier?
This question fascinates me, which is why I was intrigued by this infographic from the folks at Happify, a site where you can sign up for a daily regimen of scientifically-backed happiness-boosting games. The infographic is based on current research on what makes people happier at work, and includes insights such as that clergy, firefighters, and physical therapists are the most satisfied with their jobs, and that people who bike or walk to work tend to be happier than car commuters. (My favorite tidbit.)
The infographic’s dark underbelly? Only 47.7% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, happy workers are 31% more productive than unhappy workers, and one in ten strokes may be caused by work stress!
So how can you be happier at work?
1. Take a “Happy Break”
When you’re facing the continuous onslaught of daily demands – emails, meetings, reports, and spreadsheets – you may start to feel like you’re losing control. The constant momentum doesn’t only exhaust mental reserves, it can also start to affect creativity and productivity.
That’s why taking breaks throughout the day is so important, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work. (Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work!)
Nataly Kogan, the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Happier, a social networking site focused on positivity, suggests scheduling a “Happy Break” in the middle of every work day in order to give yourself a boost – in both happiness and productivity. She writes: “Use that time to savor a treat you love (I suggest a square of really good dark chocolate), listen to your favorite song, text a loved one, or otherwise do something that you know will lift your mood. Don’t be surprised if you discover you got more done at the end of the week!”
Along with building in moments of happiness, building exercise into your daily routine can help decrease your work stress. Get up and move around every 30 minutes or so, or add in exercise by biking to work, getting off the bus stop a few stops early, or even just parking at the far end of the lot.
2. Look on the bright side
When you’re unhappy with work, you may only feel like venting about all the things that are going wrong. But studies have shown that looking on the bright side can actually lift your mood. Take a moment at the end of each day – or right now! – to write down the things that went right today. Did you have any particularly great conversations with your boss? Was that presentation a hit? Did you receive a stellar response from a client?
As you do this, you’ll build a habit of seeking out the positive in any situation, as well as creating a “wins” file that you can reference whenever unhappiness starts to rear its ugly head.
Along with celebrating your own daily wins, seek out the positive in others by showing gratitude to those who’ve helped you out throughout the day. A simple email or even just an in person thank you will not only lift your coworker’s spirits – it will raise your own, as well.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness is an incredible struggle for most modern workers, smashed as we all are between conflicting expectations and stampeding deadlines. Smartphones buzz with email reminders at all hours of the day, and they’re stuffed with apps that leave no room to daydream even when standing in line at the grocery store.
According to Real Happiness at Work author Sharon Salzberg, being mindful at work is one of the keys to being happy while on the clock. Setting aside the draining habits of multitasking and minimizing interruptions can help us feel more connected to our work, which in turn can make the work seem more meaningful.
“Rather than having our attention (and our energy) flying off in all directions all of the time, we can cultivate the ability to focus, be fully present, and utilize our energy efficiently,” Salzburg says in an interview about the book. “As a result, our previously scattered, stressed energy becomes more available to us, and we feel empowered. As we gather our attention, we feel more integrated, unified, fulfilled. This isn’t beyond anyone’s abilities…It’s just a question of gentle, persistent effort.”
Happiness is a choice just as much as it’s a feeling – and it’s a choice that may alleviate the work stress that causes health complications and decreases productivity.
Besides, life is way too short to be working a job that makes you miserable. If you’re in a situation that affords you the internet access and leisure time to read articles about being happier at work, chances are you’re not as trapped as you think you are in a toxic job with no room for hope.
I challenge you to take your own happiness by the horns today, and either make the best of your current situation or seek out a new opportunity.
What will you do to be happier at work today?