3 Simple Changes That’ll Make You Happier at Work
Whatever you may think about happiness, it’s nothing more than a state of mind. It ebbs and flows from moment to moment, influenced by stressors like work, family and our own sense of success. So why do we beat ourselves up so much when things aren’t going our way? Surely, there’s more we can be doing to foster a positive mental state and inspire more happiness in our lives?
Now, that’s not to say that unhappiness ‘is all in our head’. With 1 in 4 people experiencing some form of ill mental health in their lives, depression and anxiety are real and serious threats that shouldn’t be ignored. Our minds are a reflection of the reality around us—and if that reality is a bit overwhelming, it can be difficult to shed a positive light on things. Difficult, but not impossible.
Yes, reality has an impact, but you can re-align that impact. You can learn to see the world in a way that allows you to be happier. Let’s explore some of the best ways to do just that.
1. First, realise success and happiness aren’t the same thing
If you want to read a great book about being happier at work, consider picking up The Happiness Advantage, by Harvard Psychologist Shawn Achor. In it, he claims that we’ve put the cart in front of the horse by believing that if we can be successful, we’ll be happy. But just thinking back to your successful and your less successful friends will show you that this isn’t true. Some are happy, some are not and whether they’re successful rarely has anything to do with it.
What Achor proposes in his book is that if you reverse cause and effect and work on being happy, then you’ll actually end up being far more successful.
So, for the first change, you’ve got to change your perspective. Stop focusing on being successful first and work on being happy. If you can do that, then you’ll be successful as a matter of course.
2. Don’t skip out on holidays
Many people have this misguided misconception that if they want to get ahead, they have to sacrifice, and one of the first things they sacrifice is their holidays. And yet, the research is pretty unequivocal in this regard. Holidays are actually good for your career. In fact, one study showed that 82% of small business owners who took a holiday performed better at work when they got back.
Burnout is bad for your professional reputation. If you don’t allow yourself the chance to take a mental breather, you could potentially be doing more harm than good.
Holidays offer you a chance to get away, recharge, get distance from what you’re doing and rearrange your priorities. Even better, they give you the opportunity to reflect on what you’re doing it all for.
For that reason, a simple change you can make is to stop feeling guilty about taking holidays. Instead, see them for what they are—happiness boosters that advance your career as well.
3. Learn to frame things differently
It turns out that how you frame the world around you impacts how well you do in certain jobs and how happy you feel. If you go into a situation thinking the worse, chances are you’re not going to give it one hundred percent. When working in the charity sector, positive framing can be tricky. We work with disadvantaged people; people who experience extreme poverty, abuse and discrimination. And when faced with such negative experiences day after day, compassion fatigue can set in. And that can directly influence our happiness.
But when you constantly strive to take the glass-half-full approach, you’re training yourself to always consider the silver lining. Spend less time focusing on the people you haven’t helped and more time celebrating the people you have. It’s about more than just being happy, it’s about learning to approach life creatively and not let ourselves be defeated by what we haven’t yet achieved.
Consider this example: Your company needs to cut costs, and because of this you are laid off from work.
For most people, this can be quite tragic. We define ourselves by the work we do, and suddenly being out of work can lead to depression. But what if you weren’t happy in that job to begin with? Surely, losing that job is a catalyst to find a job that really inspires and drives you? Framing it in this way allows you to see this as an opportunity rather than a set back.
Once you learn to frame situations like these more positively, you’ll find that setbacks are a lot easier to deal with. The good news is that you can move from the negative to the positive group. You can break it down by considering the following ABCDs:
- Adversity: This is the problem that hits you.
- Belief: This is the belief that you hold. Is it the end of the world or is it not that big of a problem after all? These beliefs are generally knee-jerk reactions.
- Consequences: Your belief will guide your consequences. If you hold onto a negative viewpoint, then the consequences will be more severe both mentally and circumstantially, as you give up, get depressed or otherwise allow the event to exert a great deal of control.
- Disputation: Here is where you take action. When a negative event hits you and you hold a certain view about it, you need to question that view. Ask yourself, ‘Is it really as bad as I make out? Is there an opportunity to take this failure and take this as an opportunity to learn? Where is the positive in all of this?’
Speaking out loud can often help you sort through this more easily. When you first start to do this it will be hard. You’ll want to be unhappy and despondent. And to a certain level, you should allow yourself to feel that way. After all—contrary to how they’re portrayed in popular culture—negative emotions are not bad.
But after you’ve given yourself moment to be miserable, it’s time to start to dispute the negative view. In that way, you’ll be able to get past the problem a lot faster.
Ready to make a change?
Happiness is most certainly influenced by matters in the real world. At the same time, we still have control and if we can nudge our lives through outer and inner actions, then we’ll be able to be far happier. You don’t need to be successful for this to be the case. Quite the contrary. Happiness breeds success.
So, stop waiting for happiness. Instead, make it a part of your life by taking the actions outlined above. For what’s the point of life if you’re not happy or fulfilled?