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7 Science-Backed Secrets to Being Happier at Work and in Your Career

o-WORK-HAPPY-facebookAre you happy at work?

If someone asked you this question, what would first come to your mind? Maybe you’d evaluate your job satisfaction with the type of work you’re doing — does it fit your skill set and challenge you? Others may equate career happiness to compensation or the prestige of a particular employer.

Studies show that people who are most satisfied at their job point to a wide range of features from friendly co-workers, a positive company culture, good pay, and high-quality management to fringe benefits like work-life balance and feeling valued in the workplace. However you define happiness for yourself, one truth remains: your mental health is as critical — if not more important — to your long-term success as the hours you log at the office. When people feel happy and valued at work, the generate greater results. They’re able to focus and succeed at the job at hand, while remaining resilient in the face of challenges that arise.

Here are some practical tips you can start using today to increase your career happiness:

1. Turn off Facebook.

Social media, especially Facebook, can be like a black hole that sucks you in with its endless updates, wasting your time and zapping your focus. No matter what web browser you use, you can quickly and easily install a tool to quiet your newsfeed or remove it all together, allowing you uninterrupted serenity to think and create – two essential elements for happiness at work.

Even better, consider doing a social media detox for a month to see the impacts it has on your overall well-being and productivity. You’ll be amazed by how much more you can accomplish and how much better you feel without the deluge of posts cluttering your desktop (and mind).

2. Define your “why.”

Think about what work means to you and why you do what you do. Is your job a means to earning enough to transition to freelancing and travel the world within three years? For others, their drive may be rooted in a broader mission. Does your job allow you to make a positive impact for a cause you’re passionate about?

What we find personally meaningful and how we go about achieving it differs from person to person, but research shows that identifying your “why” is key to staying happy and productive on the job. When you feel overwhelmed or unmotivated, ask yourself the following: “If I could only share or teach one message to one group of people, what would my message be?” To figure out what you find meaningful and inspiring in your life, grab the “14 Powerful Questions to Find Happiness” free printable workbook.

3. Institute a mandatory laughter policy.

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine, and it turns out that it’s an effective productivity booster, too. A good belly laugh can have a soothing neurocognitive effect, flooding your brain with chemicals that reduce your body’s natural stress response. You could try working a viral BuzzFeed clip into your lunch break or interject a funny quote to lighten the mood during a presentation.

4. Do one good deed.

We’ve all experienced the boost that happens when we lend a helping hand to someone else, and this pay-it-forward principle holds true in the workplace. A little altruism goes a long way: studies show that happier workers help their colleagues 33 percent more than those who are unhappy. Whether it’s taking on some simple tasks for an overwhelmed colleague or grabbing an extra coffee to give away in the morning, giving back to your team is a surefire happiness hack.

5. Design your own 30-day challenges.

Setting goals and reaching for objectives increases satisfaction with our lives, increasing self-esteem and positively affecting our perception of what we’re capable of. Progressing toward a goal is the gift that keeps on giving — the further you get along the path, the more psyched up and self-disciplined you become.

At the beginning of each month or quarter, devise a challenge for yourself that you can get enthusiastic about working toward, such undertaking a 30-day sprint to complete a big project, learning a new skill like coding, or taking on a stretch assignment that exposes you to dealing with different people in the company.

6. Replace “what’s wrong?” with “tell me more.”

Stuck working with a total pain in the butt? While this can be a total drag, it’s something we all deal with. To help the situation, keep in mind “MRI”— most respectful interpretation; or giving people the benefit of the doubt and assuming they are coming from a respectful place rather than one of malicious intent.

For example, your cube mate may not even be aware of their annoying pen-tapping habit and it’s certainly not part of some grand scheme to drive you nuts. The next time you find yourself getting frustrated, remind yourself to give your irksome colleague or client the benefit of the doubt. This change of perspective can do wonders for your mood by shifting your mind to a positive state, rather than a defensive one.

7. Establish an evening gratitude ritual.

Before you pack up to leave the office each evening, review three things that went well during the day or that you feel grateful about. This little ritual — no matter how tough the day was — can become something to look forward to and help you end each day on a positive note. Even better, this steers your brain toward habitual positive, growth-oriented thinking.

As you work to identify three things you’re grateful for (don’t cheat and settle for two!) you’re training your brain to see opportunity in challenging circumstances, rather than allowing it to get stuck in a pattern of negativity. And of course, don’t forget to express your gratitude to colleagues — chances are, your affability will rub off on them, and the workplace will become a more pleasant one.

No matter how much your job may make your crazy, there are strategies you can implement — starting today — to make it better. By working some of these tips into your day, you’ll be able to come home feeling less drained and frustrated, and more ready to tackle what the next day has in store.

7 Science-Backed Secrets to Being Happier at Work and in Your Career

Melody Wilding, LMSW

Melody Wilding, LMSW is a performance coach, licensed social worker, and has a Masters from Columbia. She helps established and rising managers and executives advance in their careers. Her clients work at companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, HP, and Deloitte. She also helps entrepreneurs take bold steps to grow their businesses. Melody has helped over 10,000 smart, self-aware people like you. Her coaching gives you actionable strategies to reach your goals. You get concrete steps to overcome the complex struggles of success. Melody loves arming ambitious people with tools and tactics to boost their confidence. She can teach you skills for assertiveness and influence. Her specialties include better managing your emotions at work. Melody also teaches Human Behavior at CUNY Hunter College in NYC. She writes about psychology and careers for Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, and more. Click here and grab the FREE COURSE to go from insecure to unstoppable confidence 5 DAYS TO FREEDOM FROM SELF-DOUBT..

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APA Reference
Wilding, M. (2018). 7 Science-Backed Secrets to Being Happier at Work and in Your Career. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 23 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.