• Dreary offices and company cultures can make work life miserable
  • Choose to be happy and seek out the people and things that trigger your happiness
  • Happiness begins with you making the decision to be so
When your alarm clock starts beeping, the first thing that enters your mind is how much you don’t want to get up and go to work. If your phone wasn’t the alarm, you’d have thrown it across the room by now.

You know there’s only so many times you can hit the snooze button before you have to drag yourself out of bed and head to the misery of work.

And your sense of dread only gets worse when you finally make it there.

One of the biggest reasons you hate showing up is the atmosphere. It’s miserable and depressing.

Your workplace isn’t a place of joy. It’s majorly stressful and the office culture doesn’t help promote fun or happiness. It’s like a digital sweatshop full of cubicle slaves.

Dealing with this every day is draining. Your mood is biased toward negativity - even bordering on a mild depression that makes you struggle to find any positives.

You really want to be happy but work isn’t an environment that lends itself to this. Everyone and everything around is joyless, verging on soul-destroying.

You’re spending a ton of energy focusing on everything that’s wrong and it’s leaving no room for anything else. You get hung up on it, to the point that you believe it’s never going to change.

Bringing more happiness to your workplace might seem like an impossible task but it can be done. Truth is, happiness is a state of mind and it can be learned.

It just takes practice.

According to this University of California study, feeling happy at work can make you more successful. It’s not just the other way around.

But what makes you feel joyful isn't going to have the same effect on someone else, which is why it's really important to find your version of happy.

Seeing as you can’t rely on other people to make work a happier place to be, it’s up to you to find your own sources of happiness.

Once you’ve developed your own happiness hacks, you can snap out of your frequent funks. They can help make every day more joyous, whether you’re at work or at home.

And who knows, you might even bring some joy to your miserable coworkers too. 

How A Joyless Workplace Affects Your Wellbeing

When it’s not just you that hates showing up at work, the lack of joy can spread like wildfire. The effects can be bad news for your mental health and personal and professional life.

It’s not hard to see how a shitty workplace can suck when it comes to productivity and creativity but it can also affect your wellbeing too.

Being unhappy at work simply makes office life that much more unbearable. It turns every little task or project into its own mini mental torture session. Your day is filled with misery blended in with heaping amounts drudgery.

Inevitably, all of this negativity sours your mood and outlook, which in turn, triggers all sorts of emotional reactions including anger, depression, hopelessness, etc. All of these emotions can mess with your hormonal balance.

And when this imbalance gets to be too much, it manifests itself into physical aches and pains like tension headaches, muscle tightness, digestive issues, vision blurriness, high blood pressure, weight gain, etc.

Being miserable at work can also make it hard to leave your unhappiness in the office. And, when you can’t disconnect from work, all of that mental baggage just follows you home.

Adding in this after-work anxiety can be doubly problematic and inevitably, it spills over into your home life.

You come home in a shitty mood and find it hard to take any pleasure from things you’d normally enjoy. It also impacts those around you too, leading to second and third-order consequences.

The bottom line is that a joyless workplace can make life miserable. So, it’s time to find ways to offset this and let happiness happen more often.

8 Great Ways For Sparking Your Own Happiness

smiley tree
So, how do you start sparking sources of happiness to get out of this funk?

Switching up your perspective is a great place to start.

We often think of happiness in terms of what we crave and aspire to. If you could just luck out with winning the lottery, buying a big house, and living a life of luxury, you'd be super happy, right?

Here’s the thing though.

Money can buy you some happiness but only to a point.

According to this study from the National Academy of Sciences, when annual income exceeds $75,000 per year, the happiness gains get incrementally smaller. Once you’re past that point, more money doesn’t equate to more happiness.

So, here’s the good news: you don’t need to chase the money to be happy. This gives you plenty of options for finding other sources of joy that aren’t dependent on how much you earn.

Here’s how to start sparking some joy every day to make work a happier place to be.

1) Hang Out With Your BFFs

Surrounding yourself with the right people can keep you smiling and improve your health. You’ve probably heard of this quote from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

And science shows that this is true in varying aspects. So, if your closest five are all overweight, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll be too. Conversely, if the five are fitness freaks, you’re probably exercising daily.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social connection is one of the five basic human needs. It’s the one in the middle of the pyramid below.
Maslow Needs
Feeling disconnected from other people can be stressful. Anxiety, fear, depression and other mental health problems can often stem from this.

It all goes back to our human ancestors where if you were kicked out of the tribe or abandoned, the chances of you surviving alone was pretty damn bleak. The tribe helped you survive. This same prehistoric emotional programming still resides in all of us today.

It’s one of the reasons why we all need to have a work BFF. They help us survive work life by being our confidant, sounding board, onsite therapist and general office bestie.

It’s not surprising that social connections improve your physical health and emotional well-being. This study from Stanford University backs this up.

Social connection boosts the production of oxytocin and serotonin, two feel-good chemicals that help you feel happier.

And it creates a positive cycle that encourages you to seek out more social connections and further boost your happiness.

Having a supportive group of positive people around you can even help you live longer. However, if your closest circle is a bunch of Debbie Downers, it’s time to reshuffle the deck and replace the worst ones with a few new happy recruits.

2) Spend Time With Pets

If you’ve got a pet at home, they are your secret weapon for boosting your happiness.

According to this study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, furry friends make you healthier and happier. If you’re a pet owner, you don’t need any academic study to tell you this. It’s obvious.

For some lucky few that work at progressive companies, they can take dogs to work and have their companion at their side all day long.

Pets can boost your self-esteem and make it easier to handle rejection, both of which come in real handy in most workplaces. A stronger self-esteem also helps when you need to quiet the asshole in your head.

If we're really honest, some of us have closer bonds with our pets than we do with other people.

If you don’t have any pets, then chances are pretty good that one of your neighbors probably does. Ask if you can hang out with them or take them for a walk. They’ll love you for it.

The type of pet you have doesn’t seem to matter too much.

It's all about triggering an increase in feel-good oxytocin and decreasing stress hormones like cortisol when you spend time with pets. 

3) Perform Random Acts Of Kindness

Think back to a time when someone did something really nice for you - nothing big, but a small thoughtful gesture. It could have been someone you know or a total stranger. Either way, remember how good it felt?

Random acts of kindness are unexpected things we can do to brighten up other people's days.

This study published in the Emotion journal shows the power of doing things for others.

People who took part in the study were split into 3 groups and given different instructions. One group carried out random acts of kindness. A second group treated themselves. The third group simply kept track of their normal daily activities.

Guess which group saw an increase in positive emotions?

You might assume the second group but it was actually the group who did good deeds for others that experienced the biggest positive boosts in mood, happiness and wellbeing.

That's not to say that being good to yourself isn't going to help you feel happier. It will. In fact, we’re big believers in pressing pause on life for “me-time” self-care. Just don’t rely on it as your one and only source.

Adding random acts of kindness for others into the mix can bring a serious happiness boost that sticks with you for longer.

Here are a few ideas:
  • Give recognition to a coworker that helped you out of a jam by writing a short note to their boss and copy your colleague.
  • Buy a coffee for the building security guard or for the person behind you in the line.
  • Leave sticky-note smileys as personal thanks to coworkers, maybe even include a little Hershey’s chocolate kiss too.
  • Let someone cut in front of you if they seem like they’re in a mad rush or if they only have a few items to buy.
  • Feed an expiring parking meter for a car with your pocket change.
You get the picture.

It’s a super easy way to brighten someone’s day and bring a bit of happiness to yours too.

Check out this video about the benefits of random acts of kindness, both for yourself and others.

VIDEO: The Science of Kindness
YOUTUBE: randomactsofkindness
LENGTH: 2:15
Summary points:
  • Performing one act of kindness daily helps you feel calmer and improves mental and physical wellbeing
  • It also helps release feel-good serotonin and oxytocin (the “love hormone”)
  • Both you and your recipient benefit from acts of kindness

4) Indulge In Your Passions

Engaging in your passions can make you happier. Whether it’s cooking, crafting, sports, hobbies, etc. there’s something that we all love to do pretty much anytime. And when you do, it has a magical way of melting away your stresses.

One of the big reasons for this is simple. You're balancing work with play and encouraging creative expression, relaxation, and confidence.

This study from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that leisure activities can also bring instant stress relief, lowered heart rate and greater positive mood.

After getting through a rough day at work, throwing yourself into a hobby can help to erase the day’s anguish and get you out of your funk.

And according to this study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Health, having a creative hobby can mean you're more likely to be creative at work and have a positive attitude.

Both of these are important for turning around a miserable, uninspiring work environment.

If you get involved in social groups around your hobby, it can help you boost the social connections we've already talked about. You’ll be getting a 2-for-1 deal.

So, set aside a bit of time for the hobbies that make you smile.

5) Read Up On “Good” News

If you always feel super depressed when you hear "bad news" stories, here's why.

This study from the British Journal of Psychology found that negative news can increase anxiety and make you more likely to engage in “what if?” scenarios about your personal worries.

You instantly feel more stressed when you consume bad news.

Yet, we often can’t stop reading or watching bad news because it feeds into our negativity-bias. This can lead to catastrophizing - worrying about all the bad things that could happen (but probably never will).

This is why most news is bad news. It feeds into our negativity-bias and as long as we keep watching it, the broadcasters will keep making it. It’s where the media phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads” comes from.

Limiting negative news and balancing it with "good news" stories is a valuable happiness hack.

This includes being selective about the type of news you consume and how much.

Skimming headlines gives you the news in a nutshell.

You can quickly skim past anything that might trigger stress and anxiety, while still keeping up to date with what's happening.

You can also listen to happy podcasts during your commute to offset all the fear, violence and despondency that the media endlessly keeps dishing out.

6) Spend Time With Mother Nature

Getting out and about in nature is a surefire happiness booster. Connecting with nature has compelling effects on your wellbeing.

The big one here is happiness.

It helps manage stress and lift your mood.

You don't need to be outdoors for hours to get the benefits. As this study from the Journal of Positive Psychology highlights, just five minutes is enough to boost your mood. Plus, it has some incredible brain benefits too.

If you’re lucky enough to have a park near your office, take advantage of it by having lunch there on nice days. It definitely beats eating lunch at your desk. Bring your work BFF too to double up on the benefits.

However, if your workplace is in an urban setting with very little in the way of greenery, then hop on YouTube.

Even just seeing images of nature offers the same wellbeing benefits.

It can fool your brain into thinking you’re actually out there in nature. You can experience the same positive emotions without leaving your cubicle or couch.

Think of it as a way to teach your brain to feel happier and manage negative emotions.

Maybe those sneaky Youtube breaks aren’t such a time suck, after all. 

7) Be More Optimistically-Minded

Pessimism can be contagious and it’s very easy to get stuck in a negative cycle.

Switching to optimism has the opposite effect.

As an optimist, you automatically expect the best from situations rather than the worst. And it’s not the blind “ignore all bad stuff” kind of optimism we’re talking about here.

When problems occur, you don't get hung up on them. You just see them as temporary blips or maybe even challenges that test your skills and abilities. In this mindset, you’ll improve your chances of solving problems, which results in progress and getting in the zone at work.

It's one of the reasons why optimists are happier and more productive. They not only overcome challenges but also seem to gain from them.

This American Psychological Association study even suggests that being optimistic can help you achieve success. This is because “optimism is about learning from setbacks and knowing when to change course if a strategy isn't working.”

You’re not simply banging your head against a wall and using brute force to solve a problem. You adapt and find creative solutions and work around the obstacles.

Another factor is the resilience that comes with optimism.

But what if you're not naturally optimistic?

You can learn how to be optimistic by tweaking your perspective.

One easy way to do this is to flip your thinking on its head.

If your first thought upon getting to work is “I hate it here” or “This place totally sucks”, guess what? It automatically becomes reality.

Here's the thing though. You can control that inner narrative and switch it to one that gives you a different outlook.

Telling yourself that you’re in control of your happiness or you don’t have to stay at your job forever is a huge gamechanger.

Another trick you can use to boost your optimism?

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or haven’t done, focus on the small wins you’ve accomplished and celebrate those victories or how those actions helped to make everyone’s day a bit brighter.

8) Just Smile More

When you're miserable at work, smiling is probably the last thing you feel like doing.

But it's an easy way to get a hit of dopamine and serotonin. It's another instant mood booster and stress reliever.

Plus, it's contagious. It helps yourself and other people to feel more positive, even when your work environment is anything but fun.

Here’s how smiling can give you an instant happiness boost.

VIDEO: Why Just Smiling Could Make You Feel Happier
YOUTUBE: SciShow Psych
LENGTH: 5:17
Summary points:
  • Your facial expressions affect your emotions and vice versa
  • Using the facial movements involved in smiling can make you feel happier
  • Holding a pen across your mouth with your teeth forces you to smile and triggers positive emotions 
Even if you have to fake a smile to start with, the benefits are still there.

Your brain can't tell the difference between a genuine smile and a fake one so it responds the same to both. So, “fake it ‘til you make it” totally works here.

Just 60 seconds of smiling is enough to make you feel better about life.

If you’re at your desk now, grab a pen or pencil and put this theory to the test.

Seriously, give it a try.

It might sound super cheesy but it works.

For a little boost of support, take a look at the next image below while you’re doing the smile pen test. We guarantee that you’ll feel better. 😉

Happiness Is All Around You

With the negative energy and total lack of joy in your workplace, that funk you've found yourself in can feel relentless. It’s like an emotional vortex of dread, low morale, dullness, and depression.

And while you can’t single-handedly improve the office environment or company culture, you can control how you see and respond to things.

Cultivating your own happiness sources and triggering happiness at work is the way to go.

These can be a mix of hacks you can use both in and out of the office and they're proven mood boosters. You just have to give a few of them an honest run, not just once, here and there.

Happiness is a choice. A choice that lies within your power to decide. It’s all up to you.

It's a decision that will determine your mood for the next hour, day, month and year.

Life is too damn short to be spending the majority of your time in a shitty mood. It’s time to choose to be happy.

So, the question is - what are you going to do today to be happy?

Go do whatever it is that makes you smile and fills you up with all that yummy warm joy.

Feel Better,

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