How to be happy at work- 10 effective strategies!

Have you ever wondered if there is anything that you can do to be happier at your job? 

If the answer is ‘Heck yes!’…you are not alone. 

Rates of burnout and job dissatisfaction, especially among healthcare professionals, are higher than ever. The number of providers looking to transition to non-clinical careers has skyrocketed and many of us admit to spending much of our day being unhappy with our current work situation.

The key to long term, job satisfaction ultimately comes down to a compilation of factors. 

happier at work, you are here

Are you doing something that aligns with your mission, aspiration, and purpose in life? 

Does your role provide a good work life balance? 

Do you feel respected by your organization and feel a sense of autonomy in your day to day?

If the above sounds like a pipe dream at the moment, don’t worry! 

The good news is there are a number of things that you can start doing today that are proven to improve your levels of happiness even in your current situation. 

Is COVID-19 affecting your ability to be happier at wok? Read this reflection from an SLP on the ‘COVID guilt’ felt as a healthcare professional.

Try these 10 strategies to feel happier at your job today!

1. Smile and Laugh

Next time you are having a rough day at work, try putting a smile on your face. Your body is not able to tell the difference between a genuine smile or laughter and if you are faking it. Turning up the corners of  your mouth or having a good laugh (even if it’s forced) has been proven to trick the body into elevating your mood!

2. Practice Gratitude

Giving thanks can make you happier. Whether it is recalling past experiences, relishing in current good fortune, or feeling optimistic about the future, positive psychology research strongly and consistently associates gratitude with greater levels of happiness.

Boost your mood by expanding upon feelings of gratitude in a journal or thank you letter. Gratitude can also be contagious, shown to be a benefit to both parties involved when spoken out loud and expressed. 

3. Stay Hydrated

By the time your body says drink up you are already suffering from mild dehydration. The sensation of thirst is triggered by a 1-2% water body loss, the amount that naturally occurs during our daily routine. This same amount has been proven to have a significant detrimental impact on our mood by slowing circulation to the brain and altering the way that we think and feel.

Try re-committing to your daily water intake and watch your mood improve! 

4. Be Mindful

Practicing mindful awareness, or deliberately slowing down to focus on our present moment experiences has consistently been shown to increase happiness. An awareness of what is going on within and around you moment to moment may help you to notice more positive experiences throughout your day.

The second facet of mindfulness is acceptance. By simply observing our experiences and meeting them with curiosity vs. judgement we can begin to sit with both the negative as well as the positive. 

Awareness and acceptance of the present moment can increase happiness by reducing the need for life to be a certain way, making even our stressful moments more tolerable.

5. Find a Workplace Bestie

Research strongly supports that having friends at work significantly increases employee happiness and engagement. Even though it’s  easy to get sucked into work mode, it may be worth trying out some techniques to build stronger relationships in the office and seeking out that workplace bestie.

6. Hold Boundaries

Overwhelm at work is most often not a consequence of being lazy or weak. Individuals who are striving for excellence tend to take it all on their shoulders and may have a difficult time delegating or saying no. 

Learning to say no and holding strong to the boundaries of your time and emotional energy has been shown to reduce stress and improve confidence and happiness. 

7. Take Breaks

Whether it’s a five minute stretch break, your lunch break, or your yearly family vacation, taking breaks from work will make you happier at your job. Working without proper rest increases stress, which can have a detrimental impact on your system over time.

Taking breaks from work has been shown to improve positive affect, increase job satisfaction and improve mood. This simple trick not only makes you happier, but often increases productivity and creativity as well.

8. Use Positive Affirmations

happier at your job positive affirmation

Positive affirmations are a self awareness strategy used to help shift a negative thought into something more positive. Over time, the neuroplastic nature of your brain may actually begin to see these statements as truth and in the short term they can be helpful for increasing happiness at work by helping to direct you towards a healthy habit for managing stress.

For example, you might replace a negative or anxious thought with “I have the skills and strategies needed to make it through a difficult day”. 

9. Breathe

A few well placed deep breaths throughout your day can do wonders for decreasing the stress response. When existing long term in fight or flight mode we are more reactive and our threshold for dealing with difficult situations decreases significantly.

Practicing mindful breathing is proven to help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, immediately calming the body and the mind. Re-setting the nervous system and reducing stress can leave more room for positive emotions and interactions to take hold.

10. Savor Positive Emotions

Our brains are designed to pay attention to the negative, particularly in the healthcare environment where noticing a subtle change in patient status can be the difference between life or death. Although imperative to our work and patient safety, if we remain hyper-vigilant to those things that can be threatening to us, we may actually miss out or forget about experiences that are positive or pleasurable.

The work of positivity researcher Barbara Fredrickson suggests that we need to be proactive in recognizing and savoring positive emotions. Even if they are fleeting, we all have moments of positivity throughout our day. Working to shift our attention to recognize and celebrate these experiences can be crucial in increasing happiness. 

Try making a mental note to tell your partner the story of a patient’s success at the end of the day. Choose to journal about a moment where you felt really confident and capable in your job rather than solely speaking of the frustrations and worries. 

We spend so many hours of our lives at work that it seems like a waste to spend them being unhappy. Becoming happier at your job can be influenced by your internal dialogue just as much as external factors.

Whether you’re having a bad week or still waiting to land your dream job, start increasing your happiness by implementing one of these strategies into your work life today. 

Kristen Bingaman writes about being happier at your job and other topics at her site, The Resilient Rehab Mama! Kristen is a Physical Therapist who is passionate about the health and well being of healthcare families. As a Mom, Registered Yoga Instructor and Certified Health and Wellness Coach, she loves sharing her holistic approach to helping healthcare providers foster resilience both at work and at home. Her Facebook group, Resilient Healthcare Families is a resource for Healthcare Providers committed to fostering resilience during difficult times, striving to adapt and grow together.

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