How to Be Happy at Work
Quick & simple tips for cultivating happiness throughout the work day.
You may have heard of the "Miracle Morning" - the popular morning routine that encourages people to start their day off right with 6-minutes of happiness-inducing activities like reading, exercising & journaling. We at Verilux know that self-care strategies like simple morning routines are essential for enhancing happiness, and we also believe it's important to cultivate happiness in other parts of your day - like your work day.
Work is the most challenging part of the day for many folks, which is why it's necessary to incorporate healthy practices into your work routine. It can also be the busiest part of the day and that makes it difficult to focus on your happiness. But it is doable!
Here are some quick and simple - but highly effective - strategies that our employees at Verilux use and that you can, too, to boost overall happiness and well-being while at work.
Pack a nutritious lunch
Image: Southwestern Squash Salad from Platejoy
Just like starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast, a nutritious lunch also plays an essential role in your health and happiness. In a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers tracked participants food consumption, mood, and behaviors for 13 days. When the researchers looked at the way people’s food choices influenced their daily experiences, they found that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to 7 portions daily), the happier, more engaged, and more creative the participants were.
But we all know it can be difficult to make healthy lunch choices between a flurry of emails and meetings, so here are a couple proven tricks to help.
1) Plan ahead. If you start your day off thinking about what you are going to do for lunch rather than waiting to 12 noon when you're hungry, you're much more likely to make a healthy meal choice than running out for a quick meal on the fly.
2) Use a personal meal-planning app like Platejoy. Caitlin, our Customer Programs Leader, loves Platejoy and maps out her meals for the week using it, "I was never great at meal planning or eating healthy, and Platejoy makes both so simple. It allows me to enter my food preferences, select the number of meals I want per week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and enter how much time I have to prepare them. Then it outputs a healthy custom meal plan for me along with a grocery shopping list, which makes trips to the market super quick." Even just a little meal planning is a great option for not only eating healthy but keeping your lunch budget in check while on the clock.
Take short walks throughout the day
A study at the University of Colorado found that taking multiple, short, 5-minute walks multiple times a day resulted in participants being less hungry, more energized and happier throughout the day than when participants took one, longer, 30-minute walk.
One of our colleagues, Naomi from our Customer Happiness Team, uses this strategy to break up her day. She takes a walk before she gets to work, a brief walk halfway through the morning, another at lunch, and then a final walk in the afternoon. She says, "My walks allow me to reset my brain and take a breather. I particularly enjoy the walk when I'm feeling a little stressed. I think about the situation I'm dealing with and the best way to handle it before going back to my desk."
Naomi's experience reflects exactly what the University of Colorado study found. Audrey Bergouignan, the lead author, said that the positive effects of short walk breaks were not only on health but "also on more psychological aspects" as well. So even if you have just 5-minutes here and there throughout the day, it's more than enough time to de-stress and cultivate positivity.
Use light to enhance mood
Another way to boost your mood during the workday is to use bright light like that from a HappyLight®. Though light therapy for seasonal depression has been studied extensively for decades, the medical community is beginning to examine it's positive effects on other mood-related challenges that people face.
A 2015 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that for people experiencing non-seasonal depression, light therapy was effective for enhancing mood and lifting depressive symptoms - even more so than medication alone.
The lead author, Dr. Raymond W. Lam, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia said, "This is the first study to show that light treatment is an option for people with non-seasonal depression." Given that more than 16 million people in the U.S. have at least one depressive episode per a year, it's a common issue that impacts many people's lives, including their work lives.
In addition to HappyLight®, Verilux also makes the SmartLight™ to help with focus and productivity at work. Cathy, another Customer Happiness Team member, said, "I use the SmartLight™ Desk Lamp every day at my desk. I love being able to choose the color of the light for my different moods. On gloomy days I like the warmer colors because it just feels cozy." Turning on a Verilux light - whether a HappyLight®, SmartLight™ or both - is a simple but impactful way to enhance your mood while working at your desk.
Focus on the little pleasures
A trick for creating moments of delight in your work day is making a few minutes for small indulgences. Listen to a favorite song, have a piece of dark chocolate, read a favorite blog on your lunch break, or pop a piece of your favorite chewing gum.
Our office loves Simply Gum for a little mid-day treat because it's all natural chewing gum without questionable substances often found in gum like aspartame and BHT. Plus they have fun flavors like "Boost," "Cleanse," "Revive," ginger, coffee, and a Vermont favorite, maple.
Scheduling a little mid-day but healthy treat for yourself helps to pepper your work week with moments of simple pleasures and feelings of gratitude - both which play an important role in cultivating happiness. Bonus points if your simple pleasure includes doing something kind for someone else!
Team up with coworkers
Image: Verilux employees participate in the culminating event of our Happy Work Challenge - the Corporate Cup, a 5K walk around Montpelier, Vermont.
Recently our office ran a 6-week long "Happy Work Challenge" where each employee earned points by doing healthy, feel-good activities during the work day. Activities included things like participating in a group walk, having a meeting outside, playing a board game with coworkers on a lunch break, giving a colleague a compliment, and of course... using a HappyLight®.
We found that over the course of 6 weeks, employees were significantly more likely to do these types of simple, happiness-inducing activities when we tracked them (and our points) as a group. Our takeaway was this - if you can run a challenge or group effort to increase happiness at work, then it's well worth the effort. But even if you can't, just doing happiness-enhancing activities with coworkers makes you significantly more likely to actually commit to and complete the activity.
As our Director of Analytics Chris said, doing these types of activities with your coworkers "strengthens your relationship with them in and outside of the office." He added, "It gives you something other than work to talk and laugh about, and something to look forward to, which can make a big difference on days when you feel sluggish."
Given that most people will spend over 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime, your happiness while at work is no small matter. Each one of these strategies on their own can make a positive impact on your work day, but combined they can have an incredible cumulative effect.
Conner, TS; Brookie, KL; Richardson, AC; Polak, MA. (2015, May). On carrots and curiosity: eating fruits and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25080035
Ingold, John. (2017, Jan. 19). How taking short walk breaks at work can make you happier and more energetic. Retrieved from https://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/19/walk-breaks-at-work/
Bakalar, Nicholas. (2015, Nov. 24). Light May Work on Nonseasonal Depression, Study Finds. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/light-treatment-may-work-on-nonseasonal-depression-study-finds/
ADDA Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.
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