9 Tips For Being Happier at Work

Job security doesn't necessarily lead to happiness.

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Karen Burns
You’d think that anyone who still has a job in this economy would be necessarily happy. But, guess what? It’s still possible to be miserable in your job, even if you are grateful to have it.

Since most of us spend a sizable portion of our waking hours at work it’s important to try to optimize that time, happiness-wise. Here are nine tips:

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Clean up your workspace. Most humans are happier, more at peace, and more productive in clean and organized surroundings. You will be, too. So, tidy up. If possible at your company, go a step further and decorate your workspace with objects that make you feel happy—a photo of your loved one, a green plant, a bright sunny yellow pencil cup. (Note: Please keep the decorating within reason.)

Eat better. This not only means bringing or buying a tasty and nutritious lunch, but also just saying “no” to mindless all-day junky snacking. Sure, sugar and carbs go down easily and create a quick high. In the long run, they will wear you down, not to mention, make you fat. News flash: Good nutrition makes you feel healthier. And thus, happier.

Smile. Sounds overly simplistic, doesn’t it? But research has found that acting a certain way leads us to feel that way—it's called "self-perception theory." So act happy. Soon your brain will start to think happy.

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Do things differently. The same old-same old, day after day, unchanging routine is a surefire recipe for the blahs. Where you can, shake up the routine parts of your job by doing them in a different order, or at a different time of the day. Or find a new way to do an old boring thing.

Look for the good. Try the “gratitude list” system: Each night before falling asleep, identify three things at work you’re grateful for. No matter how small. Say them out loud. Recognizing the good that already exists in your daily life makes you happier. Really and truly.

Move your bod. Maybe your work is very physical, but the truth is that many of us spend our days hunched in front of a computer, squinting at a screen. Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a brisk walk at lunch, preferably outside.

Find someone at work who encourages your development. Some people call this a “mentor.” No matter what your job, or your level, you can find a mentor to advise you, listen to you, help you solve problems, and give you a sense of perspective. Alternatively, become a mentor yourself! Helping others makes us happier.

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Seek recognition for a job well done. No one likes the obnoxious types who are constantly tooting their own horn. But, if you are doing a great job and no one knows about it, that’s bad, too. So if, say, you’ve invented a filing system that saves paper, don’t keep it to yourself. Write a short memo to your boss describing the new system. Keep a copy.

Look for opportunities to learn and grow. Sure, funding for classes and training may have dried up at your company but that doesn’t mean you have to stay stagnant. Ask your boss if you can cross-train with coworkers. Take advantage of those professional journals lying around the break room. Request new duties that will require you to work with people who know things you want to learn. Your workday and work-life will be more interesting.

There’s a bonus to all this happiness-mongering. We are often told that success leads to happiness, but, really, it’s the other way around. Happiness leads to success. If you are happier at work, you will be a better worker. If you are a better worker, you will be a more valuable worker. If you are a more valuable worker, chances are you will be harder to replace (job security!). You'll be in line for promotions and raises (eventually)—ultimately helping to make you, well, happier.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.