10 steps to nourishing happiness in the workplace
Are you ‘happy’?
Have you ever been asked by someone if you’re happy? If so, what was your answer?
Perhaps you gave an automatic response in the same way you might answer “How are you?” with “Fine thanks”. But if you really gave it some thought, you’d have had to consider what happiness actually is.
The philosophers Barnet and Bedau (2008) summarise happiness as a perfect “balance of two very distinct types of contentment”. They propose that it is both a material happiness from physical things we desire, as well as a more abstract, natural happiness that comes from an inner peace or contentment.
If we are saying that happiness is contentment, then one of the happiest people on the planet, the Dalai Lama certainly agrees with inner peace bringing happiness:
“If you have a strong sense of contentment, it doesn’t matter whether you obtain the object or not; either way, you are still content”
(Dalai Lama 2002).
Whether it is branded happiness or contentment, we know for sure that it is a feeling that is associated with good things happening. The workplace being a good example.
Happiness in the workplace
In 2015, an experiment was carried out in the UK where researchers showed random people a short comedy clip, and then followed up with a series of questions that tested whether they were “happier” having watched the clips. If they did, they were given a productivity test based on small tasks. Amazingly, productivity went up by 12% above the control group.
Productivity is one thing. Overall wellbeing is another. Studies show that happy people at work have better health, are happier in their life as a whole and may also live longer (Frey 2011).
So, let’s get happier…10 steps to being happier at work:
1. Make a list and tick it off: Getting things done makes us feel productive which stimulates feelings of contentment. Richard Branson swears by this for his daily productivity and wellbeing (Virgin 2012).
2. Be grateful: Research has found that gratitude may significantly increase happiness, as well as reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Saying thank you may be all it takes (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006).
3. Smile at people: The more you smile the happier you feel. Also the more you smile at others, the more you will receive a smile from others, which makes us feel happier
4. Give: Studies on altruism have shown that the act of giving and of being compassionate to others increases happiness (Post 2005).
5. Get outside: Vitamin D and the outdoors make us happier. Read our last blog to learn more about this.
6. Visualise your next goal: Setting goals and visualizing them makes us more motivated to succeed, breeding happiness and positivity (Sheldon et al. 2002).
7. Share: Sharing ideas, things, feelings – all of this breeds a community spirit which enables a happy feelings (Otake et al. 2006)
8. Use your personal strengths: Using your own strengths has been repeatedly shown to enhance happiness (Seligman et al. 2005). Many of us don’t even know what our strengths are, and so understanding your strengths and how they are currently being used is a good start. Get in touch with our Strengths Coach to learn more.
9. Eat your greens: It can be easy to grab a canteen lunch without a vegetable in site. However, eating five portions of green leafy vegetables per day means we are more likely to get more feel-good nutrients known as antioxidants into our diets. Those who consume more antioxidants are more likely to be less depressed and feel more energized than others (Payne et al. 2012, Xu et al. 2014).
10. Get some exercise: 20 minutes of heart-raising movement three times a week can be enough to stimulate an endorphin response (Craft and Perna 2004). Endorphins are our feel-good hormones and exercise is a quick-win to getting a quick injection through our bodies and brains.
If you are interested in reading more about happiness, we would highly recommend the texts cited here, along with the works of Matthieu Ricard, a French writer and Buddhist monk who resides at Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal.
By Charlotte Jefferies
Director of Wellbeing, Sparks International Training
Barnet SS Bedau H (2008) Current Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings. 9th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s
Craft LL Perna FM (2004) The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 6(3):104-111
Dalai Lama Cutler H (2002) The Essence of Happiness Hodder, UK
Frey BS (2011) Happy people live longer Psychology 331(6017):542-3
Post SG (2005) Altruism, happiness, and health: it’s good to be good International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 12(2):66-77
Oswald AJ Proto E Sgroi D (2015) Happiness and Productivity Journal of Labor Economics 33(4):789-822
Otake K Shimai S Tanaka-Matsumi J Otsui K Fredrickson BL (2006) Happy people become happier through kindness: a counting kindnesses intervention. J Happiness Studies 7:361–375
Payne ME Steck SE George RR Steffens DC (2012) Fruit, Vegetable and Antioxidant Intakes are Lower in Older Adults with Depression Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112(12):2022-2027
Seligman ME Steen TA Park N Peterson C (2005) Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions American Psychology 60(5):410-21
Sheldon KM Kasser T Smith K Share T (2002) Personal goals and psychological growth: testing an intervention to enhance goal attainment and personality integration Journal of Personality 70(1):5-31.
Sheldon KM Lyubomirsky S (2006) How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves The Journal of Positive Psychology 1(2):73-82
Virgin (2012) Top 10 tips for making lists https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/top-10-tips-making-lists Last updated 2017
Xu Y Wang C Klabnik JJ O’Donnell JM (2014) Novel Therapeutic Targets in Depression and Anxiety: Antioxidants as a Candidate Treatment Current Neuropharmacology 12(2):108-119