Being Happy at Work Doesn’t Have to Be Work

Being Happy at Work Doesn’t Have to Be Work

01/19/16 Laura Gibbons

There are only 24 hours in a day, and we spend a big chunk of that at work. Sometimes our work even spills into our time at home. Achieving that work/life balance can be challenging, but being productive and happy at work is a good start. There are steps you can take every day to improve your work life and here are some tips:

Choose to be happy
Sound easy? Well, some may debate this, but you can choose to be happy. Maybe not all aspects of work make you happy, but if you refrain from dwelling on what you do not enjoy, it gives you time to focus on what you do – from the mission of the organization, to good co-workers, flexibility, new opportunities, benefits, etc.  Start looking at happiness as a choice, not just a reaction, and see how your perceptions may change.

Find meaning, a sense of purpose
Every job has a purpose and contributes to the organizational goals. Even if you don’t feel appreciated or feel no one notices your effort, take some time to do your own reflection. Write down who relies on you, who you help, what you have learned, the good you promote, and see how you might look at your role with more meaning.

Take a breath
Whether you are overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do or someone is pushing your buttons, taking a timeout can help you regroup. Learning relaxation techniques can relieve tension, help you regain focus, and make you feel better overall. A few techniques to try include:

  • Practice deep breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat several times. This is a great way to reduce stress because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
  • Get moving. Engaging in physical exercise can reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy levels, and boost brain power during the workday. And so take a walk (get outside if you can), do some stretching exercises (maybe your favorite yoga pose), and get creative by doing walking meetings or standing during a conference call (maybe add in some squats or walking in place).
  • Do mindfulness meditation. Being mindful is purposely paying attention to what is going on in the present moment without passing judgment on it. In formal practice, you can find a quiet place to sit upright and follow your breath as it naturally flows in and out without controlling or forcing it. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment, and simply return to your breathing. More informally, you can use mindfulness to transition from one task to the next, taking a few breaths before answering the phone, sending an email, talking to your co-worker, or entering a meeting. This gives you time to direct your full attention to the task at hand and be fully present in the moment.

Take frequent breaks to stay on task
Taking a break several times a day can help you stay on task and be more productive. Set a reminder to take a 5 minute break 5 times a day to clear out any distractions (especially the bombardment of electronic streams of information) and identify if you are still on task. Productivity levels are higher when focusing on one task at a time. For those of you who believe multitasking is more effective, it is not, and it is likely taking you more time to finish the tasks at hand than if you focus on one at a time.

Do what you dread first
When you find yourself procrastinating that dreaded task, it ends up hovering over you all day. This leaves you distracted and may impact your ability to get the most out of your workday. And so prioritize your tasks based on those tasks you dread and those you don’t. Consider completing the tasks you dread first so that the rest of your day may seem lighter.

Avoid negativity
Negativity can be contagious. To keep your positive attitude and be happy at work, avoid negative conversations, gossip, or those negative Nellies and Neds. It will make a big difference in remaining positive, as well as being a positive influence on others.

Ask for feedback frequently
Sometimes we can let uncertainty fuel our anxiety and stress at work. Instead of wondering how your boss feels about your work, if you are taking the right direction on a new project, or unsure of how recent changes may affect you, set up regular meetings with your superior and don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for feedback. It could be a quick and easy way to settle the unsettled.

Take charge of your professional development
Take a class, learn a new skill, volunteer for a project at work. Continuing to challenge yourself not only can help you at your job, but it can help sharpen cognitive skills and add a new sense of accomplishment.

Don’t forget to smile and laugh
Smiling and laughing releases endorphins which increases happiness and lowers stress levels. Whether you feel like it or not, you still get the benefits if you take these positive actions. So start now and crack a smile!

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