Here are some simple tricks to upping your happiness during the work day.

By Laura Fisher
Updated: May 01, 2019
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The average person spends 90,000 hours of their life at work. Unfortunately, over 50% of the workforce reports feeling stressed out, burned out, and dissatisfied with their day-to-day. Even for those who like their jobs, not every day is peachy. Whether it’s because of things going on in your personal life, a particularly stressful period, or you're just feeling down, some days feel like a true slog even if you consider your work to be your true calling.

The good news is, there are some easy steps you can take to increase your day-to-day happiness at work. Some are easy to implement this very moment and some require a little planning ahead, but all are manageable no matter what your professional situation. So, instead of reaching for the office cookie jar for a temporary boost next time you’re feeling a little blue at your desk, try one of these proven and sustainable methods for increasing your overall level of happiness at work.

1. Take a short walk.

Taking a break for a stroll in the middle of your workday is a triple threat: It can help increase your creativity and boost your thinking power, give your body a much-needed break from sitting, and raise your overall level happiness. An Iowa State study showed that just the physical act of walking has a significant positive impact on mood, even if you don’t expect it to. So even if you’re skeptical, next time you’re losing yourself in a mound of paperwork or feeling hopeless about the monotony of your day, take a walk around the block or up and down the stairwell if the weather isn’t cooperating. Even after a short 5 minutes, you might just return to your desk feeling refreshed and re-invigorated.

2. Watch a short, funny video.

We know that laughing just plain feels good, but did you know that it can also energize you and make you more productive? Don’t feel bad about taking a few minutes to watch a short clip of a cat in a shark costume chasing a duck or whatever gets you giggling. It’s an easy way to break up a long task without actually leaving your desk. If you need inspiration, start with these 15 silly videos.

3. Organize Your Workspace

A neat and well-organized workspace is proven to increase a person's ability to focus and overall productivity. It can also lead you to feel like you’re more in control of your environment, which is one of the barriers to happiness in traditional workspaces. So, get on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and declutter your desk, cubicle, and wherever else you get things done. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, tackle your computer desktop and email inbox.

4. Play uplifting music.

Whether you do it to tune out office noise or to create a certain vibe for the day, listening to music while you work can do more than just make your cubicle a more bearable place to be. A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital shows a direct link between listening to music and the release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that’s tied to pleasure of all sorts. Listening to tunes may not be right for when you are learning a new skill or processing complex information–but for those repetitive daily actions or relatively easy cognitive tasks, go ahead and turn up your earbuds to tune out the rest of the office.

5. Chat with a co-worker.

Last year, our office went through a remodel and I was forced to move from my spacious, single office into sharing one with my co-worker. Initially annoyed at my loss of privacy, I immediately noticed that my general level of happiness was increasing. Why? I like my co-worker and consider her a friend. By sharing an office, we were able to easily interact throughout the day, peppering our productive stretches with breaks to catch up, share stories, or just have a quick laugh together about the ridiculous email that just came through from HR. Forming positive relationships at work and engaging with those people throughout the day is a fantastic way to make work feel less… work-like. Obviously you can’t spend all day hanging by the water cooler, but finding time for a quick chat to break up your day is easy and accessible. Who knows–you may even get inspired to jump back into that project you’ve been putting off with renewed enthusiasm.

6. Find meaning in your work.

Less than a third of people report feeling truly engaged at work, and this could be a big predictor of your day-to-day happiness. While finding meaning in your role is a little more daunting than a 5-minute distraction, it could be the key to feeling fulfilled and happy while at work. Tying your daily duties to the bigger picture will help you find deeper satisfaction and could lead to a greater sense of purpose in your life. Try connecting your work to the people you are serving as the first step in finding meaning in your to-do list.

7. Start looking for a new job.

If your unhappiness at your desk is persistent, you may want to consider other options. Even just the step of beginning to look around and taking action instead of lamenting your current situation could increase your happiness. Looking at other roles might also help you identify what it is that you like about your current job and what you can’t stand. You might find a little gratitude and realize that you could be happy where you are with some tweaks, or maybe you decide it’s time to move on. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to explore and see what other opportunities are out there.

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