How important is it to be happy? It's an often-asked question lately, fueled by numerous studies exploring happiness and what makes people happy. According to a recent study of 82 young adults' Facebook habits, spending too much time on that social media website might result in declining happiness over time. In a recent article for the New York Times, Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside and author of "The Myths of Happiness," is noted for saying that each of us has a unique "happiness set point" that doesn't really change much, no matter what we do.
How much influence do we really have on our own happiness? Do we control it? Jude Bijou, psychotherapist and award-winning author of "Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life," has found that anyone can learn ways to boost their mood and be happier. "The science is interesting," Bijou says. "But what's even more crucial are the small behaviors over which we have control. Behavioral change is the bread and butter of happiness."
Since most people spend a majority of their time at work, here are some of Bijou's suggestions for how to remain upbeat and positive on the job.
1. Help a colleague or co-worker. One of the quickest and most effective ways to change a "poor me" attitude is to reach out to someone in the workplace who could use your mentoring or assistance with a project. "Give without expecting anything in return," Bijou says. "This instantly shifts the focus from you to another person," and changes your perspective from an attitude based on anger, fear or sadness to one that's positive, helping and generous.
2. Improve your personal brand. "There's always one person in the workplace whom everyone is happy to see," Bijou says. That's the person who smiles when she sees you, takes bad news lightly and gives genuine compliments or support frequently. Bijou says changing how others perceive you will also change how you feel about yourself. "People will love to work with you because you're happy. What they don't know is that you're making yourself happier in the process."
3. Become conscious of time-based thinking. Bad moods, worry, frustration and general unhappiness occur when we fixate on the past (what you did wrong in the meeting or why you got passed up for the promotion) or the future (worrying about making a deadline or wondering if the team will like your presentation). If you're feeling depressed or stressed out, "Take a happiness break with an activity that brings you back to the present moment," Bijou says, suggesting that you take a quick, brisk walk outdoors or do deep breathing while trying to empty your mind of all thoughts.
4. Replace the negative chatter. According to Bijou, one way to neutralize unhappy thoughts is to find a statement about yourself that is 100 percent true and can't possibly be refuted – then keep repeating it until you feel better. This creates a new, positive thought pattern that replaces the negative one. "The negative chatter that goes on inside our head is untrue and based on false assumptions derived from anger, sadness and fear," Bijou says. For example, instead of "I'll never get all of this done in time," you might say "I'll do what I can." If you can find a contradictory statement to repeat that's 100 percent true, it will quickly change your mood.
5. Say "no" to the negativity. You don't have to put up with a bad mood or negative thinking, according to Bijou. You can say no to it, just as you might to a bully or an unreasonable request. The first step is to become aware of when we're thinking mean thoughts about a co-worker, client or employee, or when we're being hypercritical about ourselves. The second step is to literally say no to that way of thinking. Bijou recommends you find a private place, such as your car, and say "no" out loud, at a good volume, while stomping your feet. "Pretty soon you'll be smiling again. This exercise usually ends up making people laugh and feel mirthful."
The takeaway is that there are some very simple ways to change one's mood – quickly and effectively, Bijou says. Happiness studies are fun to read, but small, deliberate behavioral change is the real key to feeling upbeat on the job.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.