The Secrets To Actually Loving Your Job

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you’re like most people, you have one or two gripes about your job. Maybe your boss is a micromanager, you have a catty co-worker, or you feel stifled creatively.
While conventional wisdom says that the only way to improve your work life is to fix the parts you hate, it turns out that building on what you already enjoy about your job (fun coworkers, fulfilling work, amazing snacks...) could be just as effective.
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A 2013 study published in the journal PLOS One found that focusing on the positives at work can boost your well-being and make you happier. “This was an observational study looking at what happens when you change certain aspects of your work,” says lead study author Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine in London. “Our broad conclusion was that there are various positive aspects of work that increase one’s well-being and building on these aspects is important."
Here are four ways to accentuate the positive and vastly improve your work environment.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Hang With Cool Coworkers
If you’re lucky, you work with at least one person who has real friend potential. Even if you don’t socialize with each other after work, being able to confide in that coworker or even a close supervisor when stress skyrockets can make your workday better. A study published by the American Psychological Association showed that having emotional support at work lowers blood pressure, making stressful days more bearable.
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Cementing bonds as you move through the workforce may also help you live longer. Israeli researchers found that having supportive co-workers is associated with a significantly lower risk of death from any cause. Enhance your working relationships by replacing email with in-person chats, asking a colleague how she’s doing — and really listening — or suggesting hitting happy hour together.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Use Your Vacation Time
Not only are getaways crucial for work-life balance and sanity, but you can also reap the benefits of vacation before you board the plane. One study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that simply planning a vacation gives people a boost of pleasure prior to leaving — and that happiness lasts after you return if you take a very relaxing vacation. It’s possible that the anticipation of the trip — daydreaming about white sands, flip-flops, and tropical cocktails — gives people something to look forward to during the hectic, pre-vacation workweek. “Another possibility is that people who go on vacation are simply happier than those who don’t,” says Jeroen Nawijn, senior lecturer in tourism at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Either way, hit Expedia for ideas, or just plan a relaxing weekend getaway with some spa treatments.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Take Note Of Small Wins
It’s tough to see the silver lining in 60-hour workweeks and grueling commutes, but people who find substance in their work are happier, according to research conducted by Harvard University. “We found that people tend to be more motivated when they make progress in meaningful work,” says study author Teresa Amabile, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Harvard and co-author of “The Progress Principle.” “This happens even with incremental progress, what we call small wins.”
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After analyzing over 238 diaries from happy workers, Amabile found that spending a mere five minutes a day jotting down your work progress and feelings can have a powerful impact on your happiness. So, take a few minutes to jot down your small wins of the day. Think of it as a sort of gratitude journal. Research shows that people who kept daily or weekly gratitude journals for three weeks or more reported feeling better physically, having a more positive outlook on life, exercising more, and even sleeping better.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Give Back To Your Team
When you have 65 emails to answer, finding the time or desire to lend a hand may not be top priority. But, taking a minute to mentor a star junior colleague or assist a loyal coworker can keep you happy in your job, say scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Helping others displaces negative emotions — it’s harder to feel sorry about yourself as you help others — and it makes us feel as though we’re making a difference,” explains study author Donald Moynihan, Ph.D., a public affairs professor at the university. “It also allows us to assert autonomy in our lives — we’re choosing to do the right thing.” Moynihan adds that previous research shows that people who strive to make a difference at work are more committed to their jobs and are less likely to want to quit.