9 Ways to Be Happy at Work

happy with coffee

What does happiness mean to you? For some, happiness is having a sense of confidence or satisfaction in their everyday lives. For others, it’s having contentment with their personal situation. Whatever your definition might be, you’ll probably find it interesting that experts studying the psychology of happiness found that being happy is generally comprised of three leading components:

  • Around 50 percent of happiness comes from genetics, meaning we are all predisposed to a certain level of happiness.
  • About 10 percent is due to specific circumstances. Age, race, gender, history, and even wealth are responsible for approximately one-tenth of our happiness.
  • The remaining 40 percent of happiness comes from intentional activity. As research strategist James Moniter puts it, intentional activity is “discrete actions or practice that people can choose to do.”

In this article, we will be focusing on the 40% of intentional activities that you have control over to improve your overall happiness, especially at work.

See Also: Top 10 Ways to Love Your Job More

When considering the fact that 52.3 percent of Americans aren’t satisfied with their jobs, it’s easy to wonder if being happy at work is even possible. The New York-based nonprofit research group, The Conference Board, asked workers from across various industries how they felt about different aspects of their jobs, like job security, wages, promotional policy, vacation policy, sick leave, health plans, retirement plans and more.  

Results showed that, on average, workers today are significantly less happy than they were in 1987 - the last time a comparable study was done on workplace happiness. Interestingly enough, the study found that 56.4 percent of workers were satisfied with their physical environment and 55.2 percent were happy with their quality of equipment. These categories were the only exceptions that have actually improved (even if only by .5 to 1.8 percent) since 1987. 

The study delved further into what factors are having the greatest effect on these low numbers. Thier findings: layoffs. Only 46.6 percent of employees said they felt satisfied with job security, which caused incessant worry that translated negatively into overall unhappiness in the workplace.

On the other hand, however, researchers also explored what factors make employees the happiest at work. Approximately 60 percent said that interest in the job fueled happiness and 60.6 percent said they were satisfied with their co-workers and people they work with.

Interestingly enough, the factors that cater to workplace happiness fall into the smallest category outlined by the psychology of happiness study - the 10 percent circumstantial. Considering this, it’s no surprise that people are struggling to be happy at work; they have little control over the factors that make them happiest.

If you are one of the 52.3 Americans who aren’t fully happy in their job, it’s time to make a change. First, however, you must understand that altering your work routine, or changing the way you approach certain work tasks or colleagues may not come easy at first. But with persistence and determination you will find happiness and gratification in your workplace.

Check out these 9 tips for ways you can make a positive change in your workplace happiness.

1. Remember that Happiness Is In Your Control

If you feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job, or even if you feel like you’re at a roadblock in what could be a rewarding job, know that you have two choices: find another job or make the most of where you’re at. More often than not, you’ll find yourself making the positive changes necessary to get yourself out of whatever rut you might be in and move forward in a happy direction.

2. Commit to Continuously Improve

man working

Habitually happy people truly believe that they are doing everything in their power to be the best they can be, regardless of if they are given credit for the work they do. By continuously giving work your best, you’ll feel better about the work you do and you’ll improve your character, self-esteem, and work habits.

3. Set Attainable, Yet Challenging Goals

By setting clear goals to work toward, you can focus on what it takes to reach those goals rather than everyday workplace irritants and issues that ultimately waste your time and hinder your happiness. Be sure to revisit these goals every time you feel negativity creeping up on you at work.

4. Focus on Yourself, Not Others

The second you start comparing yourself to others in your workplace, you lose your control of self happiness. If you’re satisfied with the work you’ve done or are happy about personal accomplishments, don’t let others’ opinions or actions take away from the confidence that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

5. Help Others


Researchers at Berkeley University found that by helping others, we get the same feelings of pleasure that we do from the gratification of personal desire. In other words, by helping someone else in your workplace, you’ll achieve the same feelings of happiness that you would if you received positive feedback on a big project or got a promotion. Furthermore, by going out of your way to help others, you’ll stand out as a leader in your workplace which, in turn, can lead to feelings of satisfaction and even lead to promotions.

6. Get Good Exercise

This might be challenging to begin, but once you get in a workday workout routine you’ll notice immediate results of happiness. A study from the University of Bristol found that people who spend at least 10 minutes exercising on workdays have improved time management, better mood, and increased performance and productivity. Exercise helps to release GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter, and endorphins, your brain’s “happy chemical.”

7. Avoid Negativity

Being surrounded with complainers, whiners, or overall negative people makes it incredibly hard to stay positive. However, by approaching these situations from a happy, positive angle, your negative coworkers will likely either change their ways of thinking, or they will avoid you altogether because they are not getting the attention or satisfaction they want from their negativity. If you’re surrounded by negative people, try to find ways to limit that time and focus more on the positives of your situation.

8. Be Grateful

happy woman

Though you should continue to strive for success or to reach goals, don’t lose sight of the good things you currently have in your life. People who are happiest at work are constantly aware of the reasons why they should be grateful, and they aren’t afraid to express their gratitude freely and openly. Make an effort to thank those who help you; give someone credit for their good deed; be grateful to have a steady, paying job. Not only will your gratitude attract positive attention from colleagues, but it will encourage others to reflect on things that are going well in their personal lives, too.

9. Smile and Laugh

Managing your emotions isn’t always easy, especially when the monotony of the workplace begins to wear on you. However, by making a point to smile, laugh, and have a sense of humor, you can alter your brain to feel happy and satisfied. Similarly, by thinking of pleasant, happy, and fun times or places, you can distract yourself from situations that would otherwise cause you discontent and unhappiness.

All in all, to achieve happiness at work, it’s vital to remember the factors that you have control over. While you may not be able to choose your colleagues or your cubicle, you can choose to make the most of your personal situation or help your co workers by offering advice, positivity, or even a smile. By habitually exercising feelings of gratitude, striving for goals, avoiding negativity, and living a healthy lifestyle, you’ll find that happiness in the workplace is possible.