7 little tricks to make yourself happier at work
Going to work is a daily fact for most of us – but what do you do if it leaves you stressed day in, day out? Obviously, if you really don’t like your job, then consulting a career coach or looking for alternative employment is an obvious way out. But sometimes, even if you love your job, work stress can get to you. Whether it’s the commute, the workload, the niggly backache, eye strain or headache, or even your co-workers, it can feel like the proverbial daily grind.
The good news is that there are many strategies you can employ to make yourself feel better at work, both mentally and physically. Whether you work 40 hours or 20 hours a week, here are 7 little tricks you should try.
1 – Get more sleep
Sleep is the magic ingredient to having positive energy to face the day. We know that sleep helps the body to recover from the day and repair and recharge, which in turn helps us to be more productive the following day.
Good quality sleep also puts you in a more positive frame of mind. In terms of neuroscience, the brain processes negative stimuli in the amygdala while neutral/positive memories are processed by the hippocampus. Bad sleep affects the hippocampus more than the amygdala, meaning that if you haven’t had enough sleep, your positive emotions are likely to be weaker than your negative ones.
2 – Eat breakfast
Yes, it’s true, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many studies have linked eating a proper breakfast to good health. Think about it: you need to put some fuel into your body to stimulate your metabolism, up your energy levels, improve your concentration and memory. Even if you’re not hungry first thing in the morning or don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, it’s never a good idea to work on an empty stomach.
However, just as important as having breakfast is the quality of what you eat. Whether you go for a wholesome porridge, an egg or fruit and yogurt, make sure your breakfast food is fresh, unprocessed and nutritious. A croissant on the way to work, or sugary cereals are really don’t doing anything for your energy levels.
3 – Arrive on time
Get to work late and the scene is set for a stressy day. Personal organisation is key for a smooth working day where you are in control the moment you walk into the office. From planning your wardrobe to sorting out your lunchbox, to setting your alarm on time, to sorting out the kids/partner etc, to leaving ample time to get to work (including unforeseen delays) – it will be worth the effort.
The office commute can have a surprising effect on your overall happiness. If you really live too far from work, you may want to consider making a change in the longer term – either to your job or your home.
4 – Beware the sedentary job
You may feel hardworking and productive sitting at your desk for hours, but it’s actually really bad for your body. Studies have shown that regularly sitting for long periods of time puts you at greater risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancer and many more serious health conditions.
Make sure you take a break from sitting every half an hour or so, maybe do some desk yoga to stretch out, or try a standing desk to avoid sedentary posture problems altogether. You should also ensure that your work chair is ergonomically optimised to support your body’s correct posture and minimise back pain.
5 – Personalise your desk
Feeling ‘at home’ in the office can be achieved easily with the addition of a few carefully chosen items such as a framed photo of your loved ones, a house plant, or even a subtle scent diffuser. Your physical environment at work has a big influence on how you feel, so investing a bit of thought into how to make the office more homely is well worth the effort.
6 – Get out more
The temptation to stay at your desk all day long, particularly when you’re super busy, can be overwhelming. But there are actually very good health reasons for taking a lunch break and stepping outside the office during the working day.
Taking a break gives your brain the opportunity to recharge, making you more productive when you return. Spending time outside in the fresh air alleviates eye strain, boosts your positive mood, refreshes your thinking and improves your working memory. A recent study showed that natural environments had a more positive impact on happiness than urban environments.
7 – Practise smiling
Strange but true, smiling can make you feel better. While most people think we smile because we feel happy, it can actually work the other way round too: we feel happy because we are smiling. It’s called the facial feedback hypothesis.
Obviously, it’s most natural to smile because you’re having positive thoughts – a smile has been shown to improve attention and performance on cognitive tasks. But even forcing a smile when you don’t feel like is sufficient to lift your mood and lessen the pain or distress of an upsetting situation.