Who doesn’t want to be happier at work? Or in their personal life, for that matter. But, as most of us know, being happier at work is often easier said than done. Turns out though, that being happy isn’t just good for your personal well-being, it’s also excellent for your career–and for your organization, as a whole.
Positive people not only influence the environment around them, but they’re also more productive, goal-oriented and successful, according to the study Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations? The co-author, Sigal Barsade Ph.D., says, “If you’re in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more open to taking in information and handling it effectively.”
You can decide to be happy.
As crazy as that sounds, you can make a conscious choice to be happier at work and to do things every day that sustain that happiness. Simple but not necessarily easy. “Happiness at work comes from the inside out, says Annie McKee, author of How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship. “It’s something we create for ourselves, she adds.
According to McKee, many people will lose or leave a job and go somewhere else and find that they’re just as unhappy. McKee believes that people need to feel that work is meaningful, that they are doing something linked to their values, that they’re making a difference, and that they feel hopeful about their future. People need to see a clear link between the work they are doing now and the future that they want for themselves. “And additionally, we need friendships,” she states.
Here are five simple things you can do to be happier at work:
This doesn’t mean you have to get down on the ground and spend an hour in silence. Meditation just means taking some time to think quietly. Just a few deep breaths can quickly reduce stress. You can do this anytime–walking to meetings, going to the bathroom, waiting at the copy machine, or getting water. The key is to be aware of where your thoughts take you and to breathe. We often, in our stress and activities, forget to breathe.
2. Branch out.
As part of your decision to be happier at work, try expanding your social horizons. Network with colleagues with whom you haven’t spent much time. A best practice is to make a list of all the people you’d like to meet or who would be good for your career to know. Then systematically invite them for meetings or phone calls. You may find yourself being inspired and energized by their new perspectives, interests or skills. And you may find yourself having fun.
3. Join a cause.
Many companies have corporate social responsibility initiatives. Jump on board. Doing things for others can add meaning to your life and help you keep perspective. You may find yourself forgetting your own problems (at least for a little while), and you may enjoy feeling as if you’re contributing something meaningful (which can fill the void if we think we aren’t doing so professionally).
According to John Rampton, writing for Inc., “…research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile has discovered that no matter the size of a goal–whether curing cancer or helping a colleague–having a sense of meaning can contribute to happiness in the workplace. People stay in their jobs if they feel like they’re contributing something worthwhile.”
4. Give praise.
A sincere compliment can go a long way in the workplace. Some benefits include a more positive mood, greater engagement, improved performance, and enhanced job satisfaction. What’s more, showing gratitude is a great way to improve your mood, too. You can do it in public or leave a note or email.
Try to get in the habit of verbalizing what you’re thinking, rather than keeping it to yourself. If you’re thinking something positive about someone (whether it be that you like the color of their sweater or you appreciated the points of their presentation), say it!
5. Embrace those silver linings.
Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes things go wrong. While failure can feel awful in the moment, it can also be a valuable learning experience. Embrace the silver linings in those situations if you can. When dealing with mistakes and disappointments, try to find the lesson in the situation and shift your focus from feeling unhappy to improving the work tasks at hand.
No one is asking you to blast “Don’t worry – be happy” over the company intercom to help your team members embrace optimism. But you can decide to be happier at work. You can also lead by example, and adopt the five tactics I have just described. As you encourage a sunnier outlook, you just might be surprised at the boost in your performance and your team’s, as well.
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A version of this post was first published on Inc.