How to Be Happy at Work, According to Science

October 6, 2016

Work can be a drag, even if you’re in a career that you love—and especially if you aren’t. But if you’re going to spend at least half your waking hours each weekday at work, you should make sure you’re doing your best to be as happy as you can be. There have been a plethora of studies in recent years on little ways to make us more happy throughout our work days. These four small steps can make a really big difference in how you feel Monday to Friday.

Start the Day in the Right Mood

Research has shown that if you start your day off happy you’re likely to stay that way throughout the day, and as an added benefit, you’ll be more productive too. So make sure your morning routine is something that puts you in a good mood before you start your workday. And if you find yourself sitting down to begin your day in a grumpy state, just fake it until you make it. Science tells us that even the act of smile can make you feel better—something called “facial efference.”

Make your Workspace Happy

Dress up your workspace as much as your company policy will allow. Try adding some fresh cut flowers—flowers have been shown to make us happier and more energetic simply by looking at them. Put on some cheerful tunes, and do so mindfully. Listening to music can lessen stress and if you do so with the express intent to improve your mood, it may be even more effective. A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that those who actively tried to change their mood by listening to happy music had a greater increase in happiness then those who just listened to the same music. And surround yourself with mood-boosting colors. A study by Dutch scientists found that adults are happier around yellow and green. Consider using these two colors in your office supplies or in your wardrobe to brighten up your day.

Take a Walk

Studies have found time and again that being outdoors makes people happier. So make sure you get up, head outside, and stretch your legs. Even if you bring your lunch to work every day and like to eat at your desk, make sure you go take a break and walk around soaking up some Vitamin D. A study published by the American Meteorological Society even found happiness to be maximized at 57°F, so make doubly sure you’re getting outside on those lovely autumn and spring days.

End Your Day with a Gratitude Journal

Our brains are better at remembering the bad things that happen than the good ones. This makes sense evolutionarily—if you focus on the threats, you’ll be better prepared to face them—but it’s doing a number on our psyches. A simple way to focus on the positive is to simply write down something you’re grateful for at the end of your workday. Psychologists have found that people who write down things they appreciate are more optimistic and feel better about their lives.

by Matt Moody

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