Do you often find yourself completely miserable while trying to do your job to the best of your ability? It happens to many of us. Not every task you are required to complete at work is particularly pleasant. Try as we might, it’s pretty much impossible to stay happy every moment of every single day.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn how to be happier at work, though. It is possible, and it’s completely worth the effort. Here are five things you can do to stay happy at work, whether it’s a Monday morning or an hour before the office closes for the weekend on Friday.
1. Take a quick break every hour
You know you’re not taking enough breaks when all you want to do by 5:00 is go home and do nothing for 12 straight hours. No one deserves that kind of misery. You don’t have to love your job, but something as simple as taking more frequent breaks can improve your happiness levels significantly.
It isn’t healthy to work continuously from clock-in to lunch and from lunch to the moment you clock out. (And don’t, please don’t, eat lunch at your desk.) Your brain needs breaks. Working consumes energy, and if you feel brain dead after a long stretch of nonstop work, that’s the lack of breaks kicking in.
The easiest strategy to follow here is to make it a point to take a short break after every hour of work, if you can, no more than 10 to 15 minutes per break. If you have no choice but to make it shorter, a small break is better than none at all. Turn away from your screens and let your mind wander for a few minutes. It will make you feel much more relaxed and, overall, happier, too.
2. Pack a good lunch
Fact: eating healthy probably makes us happier. It has a little bit to do with hormones and some to do with psychology. Does anyone ever actually feel good after eating a burger and fries from the cafeteria? The quality of the food you eat makes a difference, even if it’s small.
The key to making this strategy work is to compose a lunch made up of healthy foods you’re not going to completely dread eating. Pack a lunch you’ll look forward to eating all morning. It could be last night’s leftovers or something you took the time to put together last night before bed. If you enjoy your lunch, you’re much more likely to enjoy the hours that preface and follow it.
3. Ignore toxic co-workers
Every office has a toxic employee. It’s that person who somehow manages to turn every positive thing into something new to complain about. They’re the person who corrects you on every little thing you do wrong or brags about how they’re on a diet because they know you aren’t.
In a nutshell, they make you, and probably everyone else in the office, miserable. It’s not always possible to eliminate people like this from your environment, especially in the workplace. So for the sake of your own happiness, you’re probably going to have to learn how to ignore even the most toxic cubicle neighbor.
Sometimes, you just have to let people do what they’re going to do and behave the way they’re going to behave. Find ways to distract yourself. Even better, fight their negativity with its mortal enemy: positive thinking. Other people aren’t going to change, but you can change how you respond to them, even if that means choosing not to respond to them at all.
4. Learn to be flexible
One of the greatest barriers to optimal happiness in the workplace is stress. You had an entire list of things you needed to get done today, but your boss needed you to pick up an assignment someone else neglected to do, and everything else got pushed to the side. It’s not always fair, but it’s often how business rolls.
Things aren’t always going to go the way you plan, and if you aren’t prepared for that reality the moment you first step into the office, that can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Adaptability will make you a better worker and a better person for others to work with. It will make you happier, whether you immediately notice or not.
Whenever something doesn’t go your way, know it’s okay to erase and start over, or at least backtrack or put things on hold. Learning to be happy with change and letting go of your need to control everything is easier said than done, and it takes practice. But your happiness at work is worth it.
5. Reward yourself on the way home
It’s after lunch. You only have three hours of work left, but it’s going to feel like the longest three hours of your life. Misery would probably set in at this point, if it wasn’t Friday and you didn’t plan on seeing a movie with your significant other tonight to celebrate the end of the work week.
Having something to look forward to, to motivate you to keep on working with a smile, is essential. You might think that rewarding yourself on your way to work will make you happier throughout the day, but all that really accomplishes is giving you a false sense of achievement when you haven’t really done anything yet.
Productivity at work makes us happier at work and makes us less likely to dread going back to work the next day. The smarter you plan, the happier you will be. Promise yourself something you’ll truly enjoy and let that carry you, happily, through the rest of your afternoon.
Happiness is dependent on both internal and external factors. There are some aspects of the job setting you can control, and plenty that you can’t. Make the most of where you are and what you are doing. Cherish the little things that make getting up and heading to work worthwhile for you every day.