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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

I Tried to Make Myself Happier at Work for a Week, and Here's What I Learned

I’m not gonna lie: It hasn’t been the easiest month or so at work—and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been feeling it. With sunny summer vacations behind us, we’re finding ourselves facing mounds of work to get done before the year comes to a close, the stress of upcoming performance reviews, and shorter days when we leave the office and it’s already dark.

It certainly doesn’t add up to the best mood possible.

But after dealing with a few weeks of funk, I knew I couldn’t go on like this for much longer. Not only was it just not a fun experience to go to work every day bummed out, it was affecting my success: I found myself less motivated, less willing to jump in and help, and less pleasant around my colleagues.

So, with the help of happiness website and app Happify, I decided to see if I could boost my own mood, despite the things that might be happening around me. Given my situation, I chose the “Fuel Your Success at Work: The Happiness Advantage” track, and after a week of doing the activities and exercises, I learned a thing or two about why happiness is important—and how you can cultivate it every day.

Happiness is a Skill

We think of management, coding, writing, and the like as skills—things you can learn and improve upon. Happiness, however, is always thought of as a mood—something we just feel but have no control over

That couldn’t be more wrong.

Turns out, happiness is a skill as well, and it requires practice and upkeep in order for us to keep feeling it day to day. In fact, it’s built out of several skills: our abilities to savor good things, thank others, have goals that we aspire toward, give as much as we get, and empathize with those around us.

Each activity on Happify focuses on helping you cultivate one of these skills. For example, I was asked to describe in detail (a.k.a., savor) my best day ever and to come up with a plan to show gratitude toward a co-worker. Did happiness happen instantly? Of course not. But I could see how, over time, as I practiced these sorts of activities regularly, I’d start to feel more positivity in my day-to-day life.

It’s All in Your Head

Most of us believe happiness is really influenced by what’s going on around us: whether you got the raise or promotion, whether you like your colleagues, or even just what’s going on with the weather.

In reality, happiness has nothing to do with all that—it’s based on your perceptions about the world around you. That’s why, instead of urging you to change your situation, most of the Happify activities are focused on re-framing your thoughts, such as by finding the good in tasks at work you don’t love or simply focusing on positive words over negative ones. For example, I was able to understand that some of my least favorite tasks at work still contributed to my ultimate motivation of helping people find work they love, making the next time I had to do those tasks a little brighter.

Little Steps Go a Long Way

When you’re stressed, overworked, or just feeling down, it can be easy to think, “I don’t even have time to cheer myself up!” While it can feel like you need big gestures to boost your mood—a vacation, a spa day, a fancy dinner with your friends—Happify is all about showing you that manageable baby steps every day can go a long way.

So what do you really have to commit to achieve happiness? On Happify, you only have to complete one to three activities each day that take less than five minutes each. I used both the app and desktop version, so I found that I could easily squeeze my activities in while waiting for the train or on a quick break at work. Ten minutes or less each day for a happiness boost? I’ll take it.

It Can Be Fun!

Like meditation, too many people view cultivating happiness as a chore. But really it can (and should!) be a fun experience.

Happify has a range of activities, from writing short journal entries on different topics to taking a relaxing break from the day to actually playing games! It was easy to replace my five-minute breaks to play Dots with a few minutes on Happify, especially since I knew it was not just an in-the-moment distraction but a long term boost for my mood.

And at the end of the week? I definitely found myself walking into work with a smile on my face, feeling more enthusiastic about my day-to-day, and having a better outlook when things got thrown my way.

And who doesn’t want all of that?

Photo of happy laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.