As the hours of daylight increase and the outside temperature is warming up, I find myself leaving the behind the gray, unmotivated mood of winter and actually feeling . . . cheery. What a great opportunity to renew my commitment to my work and to spread more sunshine throughout the office. If you read Shawn Achor’s, The Happiness Advantage (2010), you’ll recognize these simple things you can do to stretch your happiness muscles:
1. Consciously Re-Focus on the Positive. It is well-established that we humans pay more attention to negative events than positive. “ . . . [M]ost findings indicate that people react more strongly to bad than good events. The evidence covers everything from minor everyday events and brief experimental exposure to objectionable odors to major life events and traumas. Bad events produce more emotion, have bigger effects on adjustment measures, and have longer lasting effects.” Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, Vohs (2001).
So, is it any wonder that we drive to work most mornings, dreading what might be in store for us at work?
Aware of this human tendency, you can now counteract the negative bias we all experience and consciously focus on the positive. To do so, write down 3 good things that occur each day. Or write about a positive experience at work for 20 minutes, 3 times per week. Burton, C., & King, L. (2004), The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences. Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 150-163. (Concluding that writing about positive experiences for short periods of time led to increased happiness and even led to greater physical well-being).
2. Reframe Your Work to Find Your Calling. There’s nothing wrong with seeing your job as just a way to pay the bills. It’s just more satisfying to think that you’re actually contributing to something larger in the world. How can you find the meaning in the more unrewarding aspects of your job? List a task you might define as meaningless. Next, ask yourself what the purpose is for that task or what it accomplishes. Keep asking yourself these questions about the task until you hit on a purpose or reason for the task that is more meaningful for you. In other words, connect the task to something larger or with greater impact in the world.