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7 Powerful Ways to Feel Happier at Work (Backed by Science)

7 Powerful Ways to Feel Happier at Work (Backed by Science)

“I don’t want to feel happy at work.”  Said noone ever.

But the sad truth is many of us struggle to feel happy at work. You can tell by the high percentage of disengaged employees there are worldwide⁠—a whopping 85% according to most-recent figures.

That’s a pretty scary stat considering. . . 👇

Feeling happy at work is shown in numerous studies to increase productivity, problem-solving aptitude, and even longevity of life!

In contrast, feeling unhappy at work can undermine productivity levels, inhibit creativity and, if left unaddressed, can even make us physically ill.

I count myself lucky to be one of those people who enjoys both where they’re working and who they’re working with—shoutout, #TeamHive!—but let’s say you’re not like me.

Let’s say you haven’t found the right professional fit yet.

Is it still possible for you to feel happier wherever you’re working right now?

Science says, yes!

There are loads of effective strategies to help us all create more happy days at work. What’s even better, an abundance of them are what I like to call “DHY” or “Drive-Happiness-Yourself!”

Here are seven powerful ways to help yourself feel happier at work (backed by science).

1. Adjust your outlook on failure

“It’s not whether you fail, or why that matters, but how you react to it.”

You’ve probably heard the term “growth mindset” at some point, but what does it mean exactly?

Stanford University Professor of Psychology, Carol Dweck, explains that people with a growth mindset react to failure differently than people with what’s called a “fixed mindset.”

In short, people with a growth mindset interpret failure as a learning opportunity.

Whereas, people with a fixed mindset often take failure to heart; considering it a sign of low intelligence.

When scientists measured the electrical activity in the brains of students as they confronted a perceived failure, they discovered that students with a “growth mindset” showed far greater activity compared to those with a “fixed mindset.”

By interpreting failure as a learning opportunity, the students with a growth mindset were able to ignite creative thinking and problem-solving mechanisms in the brain that their counterparts did not.

Students with a growth mindset effectively reduced (in fact, prevented altogether) the stress-response that confronting a perceived failure provoked in students with a fixed mindset.

How can we apply these findings?

By interpreting failure as an opportunity to learn, we can affirm our abilities to improve and feel encouraged to achieve more, which stands to increase our happiness significantly.

2. Meditate (more often)

Think meditation is a bit too ‘new-age’? Think again.

Research shows that focusing one’s attention on a task at hand—a core aspect of mindfulness—can increase satisfaction in completing the task and reduce anxiety. 

Proven positive effects of regularly practicing mindfulness span from enhanced psychological well-being to reduced stress and mood disturbances.

Scientific studies also show that practicing mindfulness and meditating regularly can increase grey matter in the brain.

Of course, the key to making any kind of meaningful improvement is consistency, consistency, consistency!

So make meditation a regular practice in order to reap the lasting benefits of increased happiness and more.

3. Learn something new

Learning and happiness aren’t merely related; they are linked on a neurobiological level!

In leading psychiatric research, Dr. Manfred Spitzer shares that ”the module of our brain that is responsible for experiencing happiness is focused not on permanent happiness but on permanently finding interesting novelties.”

Translation? Learning new things makes us happy!

Besides catering to our human need for autonomy and competency for good psychological wellbeing, a vast body of research shows how learning new things can spark greater creativity and inspire a sense of accomplishment—all of which can help to support our lasting happiness.

These positive effects are particularly enhanced when we engage in new activities or develop new skills that align with personal values and interests.

In other words, the positive impact of learning is even greater when we learn about something because we want to.

Finding topics we enjoy learning about or taking on training in new skill areas can help us to feel happier at work.

4. Find your optimal motivation

Research shows that when we feel we are performing a task because we want to, we enjoy it more. (No surprises there, said the keen author of this completely unassigned blog post—I just enjoy writing!)

What is optimal motivation? You may know it as “flow.”

Come again?

“Flow” as Positive Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it, is “a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.”

Optimal motivation happens when we align and approach tasks with personal values. 

Instead of choosing to do something for the sake of external reward, we can choose to do something because we enjoy it, because it is the ‘right’ thing to do, or because it is meaningful to us. 

That’s when we’ve unlocked our own sense of purpose and optimal motivation.

Extensive research shows that optimal motivation boosts creativity, sustains high performance, and promotes health and wellbeing—just a few foundations of happiness!

5. Be nice to people (yep, that’s it) 

We obviously feel happier when people are nice to us, but abundant studies prove being nice to other people makes us happier too!

(Heck, even observing other people being nice to each other or remembering a time we were nice to someone have been highlighted in psychological research as happiness-boosters.)

But, let’s get back to why you should be nice to literally everyone you meet (besides the fact that it’s totally the right thing to do). 

Researchers in Great Britain discovered that performing acts of kindness dramatically increases life satisfaction. 

And when something so simple, free, and easy to give has such a profound effect on happiness—why wouldn’t you do it?

6. Connect with your colleagues 

Decades of research tell us that connecting with others is one of the simplest and surest ways to make ourselves happy—and to make that happiness last.

Research also shows that teams who get together socially, are more collaborative and happy at work

So if you’re feeling disconnected from your colleagues, why not go out for afternoon coffee or a cheeky cocktail after work? 

7. Practice positive thinking

The idea that we can simply “think ourselves happy” may sound silly—but science actually supports it! In two experimental studies, researchers asked participants to listen to twelve minutes worth of positive valence music in attempts to induce happiness. 

One group of participants were given additional instruction to actively “try to become happier” as they listened while the other group passively listened to the same music. 

The result? 

Participants who were also prompted to actively try to become happier reported higher increases in their subjective experience of happiness. 

While the experiment’s outcome might first demonstrate positive effects of listening to certain music, it also underscores an intentional aspect of happiness. 

When we set an intention and actively try to become happier, we increase our propensity and likelihood to do just that.

There you have it! Seven psychology-backed strategies to help you feel happier at work—and beyond, really. What other strategies are you practicing to cultivate lasting happiness in and outside of work? 

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