Happiness at work matters. When you’re happy, you experience less negative stress, work more productively, can take on more challenges, and you’re able learn more.
Popular TEDx speaker and author, Shawn Achor, calls it the happiness advantage. And research shows that it can make you 31% more productive and 40% more likely to receive a promotion. It even helped doctors increase the speed and accuracy at which they diagnose patients by 19% and made salespeople are 37% more effective at selling.
In his TEDx Talk, Achor explains that we’ve got things the wrong around if we think that achievement and success will make us happy. Instead, he argues that we’re more likely to reach our goals and achieve success if we’re happy first.
And being happy at work is possible – if we understand the science behind happiness.
Driven by dopamine
Dopamine is a neurohormone produced in various parts of the brain. It’s the “motivation molecule” that helps us focus, concentrate, plan ahead and resist distractions.
Unfortunately, our lifestyles are not conducive to dopamine production and many of us have low dopamine levels. And when our levels are low, it’s harder to be happy at work. We feel fatigued, lack of focus, and have difficulty concentrating.
Luckily, there are things we can do to help our brains release more dopamine.
Here are 5 practices that will help increase dopamine production and help rewire your brain to be happy at work:
1. Exercise regularly
There’s no getting around it, exercise is one of the best ways to increase dopamine production. Exercise boosts production of new brain cells, slows brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain.
It also boosts serotonin and norepinephrine, making us feel great and helping us respond to stressful situations.
It’s been found that meditation also increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration. Spending some time in meditation every day can improve focus and concentration.
If meditation isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy hear that hobbies and sports also put your brain into a meditative state. So, get busy painting, knitting or woodworking!
3. Start a gratitude journal
Achor recommends spending a few minutes each day writing down two or three things you are grateful for. Research has shown that doing this every day for 21 days helps us build a sustainable positive state, and can make a big difference to our happiness at work.
4. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it
According to Dr. James Laird, psychologist and author of Feelings, The perception of Self, smiling can trick your brain into feeling happy because our brains associate the movement of facial muscles with genuine happiness.
5. Get a buzz from being kind
A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who lend a helping hand at work tend to be happier. Acts of kindness trigger a positive emotional state, making people experience a sense of gratitude.
Developing your positive state starts with a set of simple actions, anything from cracking a smile and writing down two or three things you are grateful for, to performing a simple act of kindness. This approach separates your goals from your sense of happiness and enables you to use your new positive state as fuel to help you achieve your goals and be happy at work.