Due to the inordinate amount of time we spend at work, job satisfaction and aptitude play a large part in our overall happiness. However, have you considered what could happen if you switched this cause and effect relationship on its head? What if you could be better at your job, and maybe even improve your chances of landing that dream job or starting your own business, by making a deliberate effort to increase your general happiness?
The reality of living in a modern society is that we sometimes have to make do with what we have, for the time-being at least. So it’s worthwhile making the most of your current situation whilst you’re in it, rather than solely focussing on the negatives and what you don’t have. That’s not to say you should settle for second best and stop looking and striving for a better job or career, but there’s very little to gain from being miserable. This negative state of mind will only damage your general wellbeing and future prospects.
Many people believe that happiness comes from earning lots of money and possessing lots of ‘things’. We live in an increasingly materialistic world, so this is certainly true for some people. But the goalposts are always shifting - when we get what we want, we eventually want more. What if you could learn to be happier because of your inner attitude, appreciate what you already have and enjoy your life the way it is right now? The good news is, you can. And when you’re happy, you’re more open to recognizing and seizing opportunities.
Time and time again, research shows that happier workers perform better. According to a study published by the University of Warwick in 2014, we use our time more effectively and work at a more efficient pace when we’re happy. Similarly, Harvard Business Review published an analysis of hundreds of studies that showed a positive mindset increased employee productivity.
Whilst genetics and our external environment play some part in our happiness, there are many simple strategies you can employ to improve your wellbeing and cultivate happiness - it’s just a matter of training your brain, like you train your muscles with physical exercise. By engaging in positive activities, like the ones listed below, you can rewire your brain by developing new habits. As a result, you will become happier in general and improve your professional performance.
1. Practice gratitude
There is strong scientific evidence to support the positive impact of gratitude on our mental and emotional wellbeing. People who express gratitude and are thankful for what they have are predominantly happier and enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.
We have a natural tendency toward negativity; to focus on what we don’t have or on the things that go wrong. This just perpetuates the cycle of negativity. It takes effort to change our bias toward pessimism, but you can change the way your brain is wired by practising gratitude on a regular basis.
Many people begin by keeping a gratitude journal in which they write down something they are thankful for or something good that happened to them that day. It’s all about learning to appreciate the small things we often take for granted.
It’s also beneficial to address negative thoughts when things go wrong. Why do you feel negative? What can you learn from the situation? What could you do differently the next time to avoid the same outcome? What opportunities have been presented as a result of the situation?
Meditation promotes feelings of inner calmness. By clearing the mind, focusing on the present and being ‘aware’, meditation can improve general wellbeing, increase focus, reduce stress and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, and help you sleep better at night.
The act of smiling is incredibly uplifting and rewarding because it activates the neurochemical reaction of wellbeing. It can trick your brain into thinking you’re happy, improve your attention, help you perform better and trigger other people to smile. Just give it a try - smile at someone on the street or in the office or coffee shop, and you’ll likely both experience feelings of happiness. Some people might just think you’re a bit odd, but that’s their issue! They’re maybe not used to people smiling at them, so their facial muscles don’t automatically respond with a smile.
4. Be kind
We should all try to be kinder and more considerate of others, but sometimes it can be a struggle if you feel like you’re not being treated well by others. It’s time to break that cycle of negativity - it’s probably the reason why unkind people are the way they are. By helping other people and carrying out small acts of kindness, you can create a virtuous cycle of kindness, improve your own sense of mental and physical wellbeing and boost your immunity.
You don’t have to spend an hour a day on strenuous physical activity to reap the rewards. A short yoga routine or a brisk walk outside can be enough to boost your energy levels, aid relaxation, improve concentration and motivation, and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
6. Sleep well
We all know sleep is essential, yet most of us don’t get enough sleep. This affects our mood and general wellbeing. When we’re tired, we’re more susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions, stress, anxiety, irritability, and lack of concentration, all of which affects our happiness levels and ability to work well.
Laughter is such an effective stress reliever and a great way to boost endorphins. It can make you more resilient, help you to connect with other people, strengthen your immune system, and improve your physical and emotional wellbeing. Laughter is also infectious - try watching this video to see if you can resist the temptation.
A routine gives us structure and improves organization. When we know what we have to do, we feel more in control, we focus better and achieve more. Consequently, you won’t be constantly chasing your tail so you will feel less stressed, you will improve your quality of sleep, you will be better at your job and have more time for the things you enjoy outside of work.
9. Strong relationships
Loneliness is not conducive to happiness. Connecting with other people and cultivating strong social relationships is one of the most effective ways be happier and healthier. In fact, you’ll be even happier if you surround yourself with other happy people.
10. Have fun
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to have fun. Life is not all about work - at least, it shouldn't be. Set time aside to do the things you enjoy, play like a child, be silly, and spend time with the people you like being with. Having fun has so many benefits - it can reduce stress, stimulate imagination and creativity, boost energy levels, improve relationships and make you more productive in the workplace. Release your inner child and find that happiness.