Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: If you love your job, it’s easier to smile as you trot off to work each day. On the flip side, if you describe your job with words like despise, you may want to look for more enjoyable work—something closer to your purpose or passion. No matter where you rank on the work-happiness scale, there are things you can do to be happier at work.
- Wake up earlier. You are thinking, “Are you kidding me?” Nope. Getting up earlier will allow you some you-time before you herd the kiddos, pack lunches and fight commuter traffic. Take time when the house is quiet. It may require practice to get up earlier, but you will give your mind some breathing space to enjoy the sun coming up, an early walk, a cup of coffee, a good book, or a conversation with your spouse before the day gets going.
- Do what you dread most, first. Get the dread off your plate by conquering it first. Just knowing there’s a project or task you don’t want to do can bring you down. Go after it first thing, so you no longer have to think about it. Plus, it can fuel your momentum for the day.
- Don’t dwell on the negative. According to happiness expert, Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want unhappy people are more likely than happy people to dwell on negative events. Dwelling or rumination can drain your mental resources and reinforce unhappiness. Avoid negative people, gossip and drama. Don’t replay negative experiences. Dwell on aspects of work you like.
- Take charge of your own growth. You are responsible for your professional development. You have lots to gain from expanding your skill set and plenty to lose if you remain stagnant. Invest in yourself.
- Keep your commitments. Not doing or delivering what you said you were going to do is a huge happiness drain. Whether it’s a tiny promise or a looming work deadline, deliver on your commitments—every single time.
- Make a work-specific gratitude list. What do you like about your job? Everyone can find something to love. Maybe it’s your short commute, your cubicle-mate, or your benefits package. Look for and capture all the things you love about your job—the act alone of writing a gratitude work list will switch your brain to the positive.
- Use your strengths. Even if you aren’t living your passion for your paycheck, you can find ways to use your strengths at work. What are your skills and interests? How can you more effectively use them at work? When you use your strengths, you create what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”—being fully immersed in your work and focused. Time goes by faster and you feel happier.
- Go outside at least once a day and if possible, take a walk, says Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project. “The sunlight and activity is good for your focus, mood, and retention of information.”
Remember, there are about 260 workdays in a year. That’s a lot of days to be dragging your feet to work. Choose to make your work time happier instead.