5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier at Work

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MH Kanchon : Most people I meet assume that if anyone on the planet is happy at work, I am. Their assumption is easy to understand: I co-founded and run a company called Happier. I make a living by helping other people find more joy in their lives — which is one of the simplest ways to increase your own happiness. I must feel happy all the time!

But: I don’t. Being an entrepreneur is the absolute hardest thing I’ve done professionally. Every day is a psychological battle to not let the overwhelming stress, long hours, uncertainty and emotional rollercoaster of being in a start-up beat me down.

Which means that to be happier at work, I’ve had to become intentional about it. Like working out or eating healthy, being happier is something you have to work on. It’s a skill that takes practice. The good news is that a growing body of research shows there are simple, concrete things you can do that will help you feel more positive at work and they don’t require huge changes.

Start the day on a good note

How you feel in the morning affects how you feel at work for the rest of the day. In one study, researchers analyzed the moods and performance of customer service representatives. Those who were in a good mood in the morning were more productive during the day and reported having more positive interactions with customers.

Make it a point to do something in the morning that makes you feel good.

Take a few minutes to savor your morning coffee (or tea or hot chocolate or whatever you like to drink before the workday starts). This means actually pausing to enjoy it, focusing on what you feel as you drink it and taking a few minutes to do it — not gulping it down as you rush to your desk.

Get some fresh air. Every morning I go for a brisk walk. Rain or shine, I get out there before the day gets going. It’s probably one of the best habits that help me deal with daily work stress. And there’s research to back this up: just 20 minutes of fresh air has been found to boost happiness and feelings of well-being.

Make fewer decisions

One of the hardest aspects of my job as a CEO of a startup is making dozens of decisions daily, often with little or incomplete information.

Decision fatigue is real: each decision you make depletes your cognitive resources, making each future decision more difficult. This can quickly exhaust you and make you feel run down.

So how can you make fewer decisions?

Put some parts of your day on autopilot. For example, have the same thing for lunch or breakfast for a week, then change it up. You’ve just removed a bunch of decisions from your day. (Steve Jobs said that he wore the same outfit daily so that he wouldn’t spend energy deciding what to wear).

Take yourself out of a few decisions. Before weighing in on something at work, ask yourself if (1) it’s high impact and (2) you have a strong opinion about it. If you say no to both then this might be a great opportunity to not weigh in on a decision.

Help a colleague

Helping others makes you happier. And helping your colleagues makes you happier at work.

For example, one study found that people in their mid-30s who had earlier rated helping others at work as important reported feeling happier when asked three decades later. Helping your co-workers seems to create a virtuous cycle; according to another study, happier workers help their colleagues 33% more than those who aren’t happy.

You don’t have to do anything huge or heroic to help. Grab your colleague’s favorite beverage on your way back from getting coffee. Ask them if they need help on a project. Offer to do something simple, like type up notes after a meeting.

The tougher part is making this a regular part of your day instead of something you do only once in a while. One simple way to do this is to put a reminder on your calendar. If you think this is cheesy, give it a shot. You might be surprised at how effective this small habit can become. (And feel free to call it something that makes you smile, like “Time to be awesome, yo!”)

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