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Happiness at Work – 12 Simple Ways to Make it Happen!

Happiness at Work – 12 Simple Ways to Make it Happen!
Happiness at work - we can all have it!

If you are a relatively junior employee at your company, though you carry out a very important role, you may not always be recognised. You might also face some of the following challenges:

  • Little fulfilment at work
  • Long working hours
  • Conflicting demands on your time and loyalty
  • Little balance between personal life and work commitments
  • Tight deadlines
  • Time management pressures
  • Strained relationships with the important people in your life
  • Tight personal finances
  • Lack of any say at work
  • Internal politics and a rigid company structure
  • Bullying within the workplace
  • Few promotional opportunities

You are therefore faced with a number of dilemmas in your workplace.

On the one hand you want to be involved in rewarding, enjoyable and fulfilling work, get recognition and promotion for your efforts, and be appreciated for the key role you play in the company.

On the other hand you want a balanced life with time for the things you really want to do with a full and interesting social life. Of course you want to have clarity about your career, job duties and you want to continue to be healthy, fit and stress free.

So what’s the best way forward?! How can you too achieve a zen like happiness at work?

One key to resolving these seemingly conflicting challenges is to get clear about just how much you love the work you do. Is what you do something you jump out of bed every morning, or would you rather be doing something else?

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How motivated are you with your work? And how do you cope with the day to day routine office work?

A UK survey last year found that almost 2 out of 3 people are dissatisfied with their jobs. And I am sure there is a similar situation in the USA and other parts of the developed world. This means that they are either apathetic about finding what they really love doing or they are resigned to being in this situation.

No matter how good things are in other parts of your life such as family, social life and relationships, work is a major part of your life, and not to be neglected.

Since for now you have chosen to be in the job you are in, it is up to you for the time being to make the most of what you do. Of course in the long term, you can either change your job or even embark on a new career. But for now, you can get to love more of what you do right now.

Assuming that in the short term you are not able to change jobs, there are a number of things you can do to begin enjoying more of what you currently do. Ask yourself – is it the job or is it you? And what can you do to make your current work more enjoyable?

Stop acting the victim. YOU are responsible for your life and if you can’t immediately change the job you are in, then it is up to you to make the most of it.

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Here are some simple tips for getting to enjoy your current job.

1. On the way to your workplace, get yourself motivated to face the day. Think of how the work you have allows you to have your life outside of it, such as a great social life. A positive attitude will make the day more pleasant and productive.

2. Keep your work in perspective. You can only do the best you can in each situation. Look beyond yourself and your work, and consider the bigger picture. Do some voluntary work to gain a broader outlook. Find a way to contribute to society in general.

3. Remember that you are more than your work. Do not have your identity too strongly tied to the job you do. Give up thinking that your work life “should” be a certain way. Such expectations of what you were supposed to be, as set by your parents and teachers, stop you from enjoying what you currently do.

4. Plan your time. In your to-do list include long term projects as well as the more imminent things that need doing. Prioritise your to-do list – do the most important things first. When performing any task, ask yourself – is this the best use of my time? Schedule in enough time for your studies etc.

5. Concentrate on the task at hand. Do not let yourself be distracted by worrying about all the other things to be done or losing energy over the undesirable situation you find yourself in. Stay in the moment.

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Be ruthless and take care of a task before it gets on a possible procrastination list. For example, sort your morning post immediately in one go – open it, file it, act on it or bin it there and then.

6. Clarify anytime you are not sure or where you are faced with conflicting demands. The more clear and upfront you are with your manager and the other people you work with, the better it will be for you in the long term.

7. Delegate wherever appropriate. Decide if there is anything that can be delegated, or that more fairly belongs to someone else’s work load. Always remember the “3D” rule – do it, dump it or delegate it – never handle a piece of paper twice.

8. Have regular breaks. Get away from your normal workplace even if only for five minutes. Try taking a break from the laptop, emails and do leave the mobile behind. Make sure that you do have that lunch break – it is not just for food but also for fresh air and a mental break.

Eat a healthy lunch and if you must snack, make sure it is healthy too – an apple rather than a bag of chips. Look for ways of energising yourself other than from adrenaline and caffeine.

9. Learn to relax no matter how challenging the work gets or how demanding your bosses become. At the end of the day it is only a job, and you are much more than that. In years to come, you will look back and wonder what the fuss was.

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10. Contribute towards creating a pleasant work environment. Do not gossip in the office as it just creates negativity all around. Do not listen to any gossip either. Minimise your time with people that you do not resonate with or like.

Learn to have more fun at work. Laugh more and chill out. Perform with a more fun orientated approach.

11. Review your day before you leave for home. Look at what worked well, and what could be improved the next day. If you feel satisfied with the day’s work, then why not reward yourself later that day. You deserve it.

12. Switch off once you leave work. You are already at work a third of your time, so do not continue to keep it buzzing in your head during your supposed free time. Mentally say good bye to your work space the moment you leave for home.

See your work as a game. Life is meant to be fun and if you are going to spend a third of it at work, you might as well enjoy the game.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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