Being happy at work is, of course, quite related to how much you like your job. But, there are small steps you can take to boost your mood. Maintaining the comfort of your body, sprinkling a few small pleasures throughout your day, using your time wisely — a little thought can mean a lot more happiness at work. As Samuel Johnson observed, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.”
Your work space:
1. Check for eyestrain: Put your hand to your forehead in a salute. If your eyes feel relieved, your space is too bright. When I got my three monitors (an investment which makes me ecstatically happy, by the way), I had to turn down their brightness levels because the glare was terrible.
2. Get a good desk chair and take the time to adjust it properly.
3. Sit up straight — every time I do, I instantly feel more energetic and cheerier.
4. Indulge in a modest splurge, i.e., consider whether there are ways to spend money that would make a big difference. Could you invest in some desk accessories to help you stay organized? Could you replace an inconvenient lamp with something that works better?
5. Get a phone headset. I resisted for a long time, but it’s really much more comfortable. The phone headset is like the rolling suitcase: yes, you look a little silly, but it makes life a lot easier.
6. Don’t keep treats around. A handful of M&Ms each day might mean a weight gain of five pounds by year’s end. My husband used to work at an office that kept a kitchen fully stocked with treats. When he switched jobs, he dropped about ten pounds, which actually had me a little worried until we figured out the reason.
7. Periodically, take time to deep-clean the loose papers that have piled up. I never do this until I specifically schedule a time, but am always amazed at the wonderful calm it brings.
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8. Never say “yes” on the phone; instead, say, “I’ll get back to you.” When you’re actually speaking to someone, the desire to be accommodating is very strong, and can lead you to say “yes” without enough consideration.
9. Take care of difficult calls or emails as quickly as possible. Procrastinating just makes it harder; getting them done gives a big boost of relieved energy.
10. When accepting a responsibility, imagine that it’s something that you’ll have to do next week. That way you don’t agree to a task just because it seems so far off that it doesn’t seem onerous.
11. Be honest about how you’re spending your time. You feel overwhelmed, but are you really working hard? How much time do you spend surfing the internet, chatting on the phone, looking for things you’ve misplaced, or doing tasks that are really someone else’s job?
12. Go outside at least once a day, and if possible, take a walk. The sunlight and activity is good for your focus, mood, and retention of information.
13. Even if you can’t go outside, take a ten-minute break each hour. Studies show that the break boosts your retention level.
14. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
15. Try to make a lunch date with someone outside the office at least once a week.
16. Let yourself stay ignorant of things you don’t need to know.
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Gretchen Rubin, author of two New York Times bestsellers, is our go-to gal for the best get-it-together know-how. Every week, she'll be dishing up her wisdom straight from her popular blog, The Happiness Project, to get you on the road to a more productive, healthier you. Here's to a 2014 resolution that sticks!