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5 Science-Backed Ways To Be Happier At Work

Miserable at the office? Try these quick tips from a leading neuroscientist who specialises in studying happiness and what causes all the good feels.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Happiness-man-at-work

Google “How to be happier” and, before you’re even finished typing, “How to be happier at work” is the first suggestion to pop up. Happiness at work is evidently on a lot of people’s minds, considering that search term’s popularity on Google, a company that just so happens to employ a chief happiness officer. (Check out his business card. He’s literally a “Jolly Good Fellow.”)

Why wouldn’t feeling happier at work be at the top of our collective consciousness? After all, most of us spend a third of our days working. Our time on the clock might as well be pleasant and fulfilling.

Related: The Pursuit Of Happiness

If it’s not, if you’re a sad, sullen downer of a worker – and your boss could very well be onto this – studies suggest that you’re significantly more likely to slack off and be less productive. On top of the emotional toll on your own well-being, your blues could also be a costly drain on your company’s bottom line and seriously bum-out those who work around you.

On the upside, a growing body of data-based evidence suggests that being happier at work can make you more engaged, less likely to quit and better at collaborating, among many other benefits. Generally speaking, the happier you are, the better your brain works and the better you feel and perform at work, says Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, a veteran neuroscientist and the science director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center.

“When workers are happier, they’re healthier and accomplish more,” she says. “They tend to enjoy their relationships at work and elsewhere. They work better on teams. They’re more well-liked by their co-workers and they’re more immune to burnout. So, if I’m an employer, helping them feel happier on my watch isn’t even a hard sell. Putting happiness where the vision and mission are, it’s a given.”

While earning her doctorate in brain cognition and behaviour at the university, she focused on how negative states such as fear and aversion influence thinking and decision-making. Now, she mainly studies happiness and the behaviours that bring the feel-good emotion about.

Simon-Thomas is also the co-creator and co-teacher of an eight-week EdX online course titled “The Science of Happiness.” I should mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I’m currently enrolled in the free class.

Related: Happiness at Work

I spoke with her recently about her top five tips for being happier at work, for both employers and employees. Here they are:

personal-baggage

1. Bring your personal baggage to work

“The professional culture norm has long been to leave your personal baggage at home. You come in. You do work. We don’t always know if our co-workers are parents. We don’t know if they are caring for others who demand a lot of their time and energy outside of work. We often don’t know much about our co-workers and what they’re personally going through.

“What researchers are realising is that the separation of professional and personal is a poor model. It minimises workers in a way that makes it more difficult for them to be happy, to feel valuable, connected, trusted and cared-for at work. It’s time to promote empathy in the workplace, to ask questions and feature opportunities for employees to share their real-life moments. A good starting place is to have off-site play days for your staff, when they can talk about who they really are, what they’re really about and where they really come from. Knowing that information about your co-workers, like if they’re in the midst of a challenging personal situation, which we all go through, can be helpful to understanding where the person is coming from. It promotes compassion and happiness, and it puts money in your company’s bank in terms of trust and social connections.”

Bottom line: Getting personal at the office increases co-worker trust and compassion.

2. Stop competing with co-workers. Work is a team sport

“Work is often framed as being something you earn. Maybe others think you were the lucky one who got a new position, or a raise, or maybe you’re the most qualified one. It’s very competitive and people get jealous and harbor resentment. Workplace competition is counter to cooperation, as it creates a sense of holding on to what’s yours and making sure nobody else intrudes upon your territory.

“In actuality, and empirically-speaking, that mentality is not as productive. It doesn’t lend itself to happiness, nor to the type of achievement that stems from the cooperation of your teammates.

Instead, break down departmental silos. Don’t act like rivals. Help each other. Create a culture of happiness, cooperation and an open idea – and resource-sharing environment. Make it the norm. People naturally work together much better when they’re not pitted against each other.”

Bottom line: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Related: Work Smarter Says Matsi Modise

hot

3. Take a breather and pause when things get hot

“Taking a deep breath as often as you can at work, or having some kind of extra awareness of what’s going on in your own psychological milieu, is so important. Engaging in mindful habits, like breathing deeply before meetings or on break or whenever you can fit it in, can reduce the toxic rumination and racing thoughts that often lead to stress and anxiety – the things that ultimately take our minds off of work and render us less productive.

“Focus on your breath when you’re in a moment of reactivity, when you’re tempted to perhaps yell at someone about something they did that irritates you. Notice the urge, get curious about it, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.

“Instead of being like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not going to scream at that person!’ and then avoiding that feeling and replacing it with something else, perhaps panic, work on your awareness and breathe through it. You don’t have to in a way that is so heavy-handed that you meditate right then and there. Just take that inhale and breathe it out slowly and notice where your urges are. If you have the urge to lash out, consider the possibilities. You probably won’t feel better after and lashing out won’t work at work. Breathing will.”

Bottom line: Stop, think and breathe in the heat of the moment.

4. Express gratitude for the people you work with

“Gratitude has been proven to present a huge opportunity for increasing happiness. There are lots of opportunities at work to be grateful for the people you work with. It’s up to you to show it, to vocally, explicitly express gratitude to the co-workers and teammates that make your livelihood, progress and daily efforts possible.

“Expressing thanks and showing you’re grateful for them brings about a deep, mutual sense of belonging and cohesion. It also creates empathy and trust in the workplace, which is essential to accomplishing collective work goals together. The giver and the receiver will feel a sense of purpose, a sense of camaraderie and like they matter in the bigger scheme of the enterprise.

“This one especially applies to bosses, who often feel, ‘I don’t have to thank my employees because I’m paying them.’ Thank each other, no matter where you are on the organisational chart. It goes a long way, starting at the top, where leaders can model gratitude, and not with employee-of-the-month programs that can cause animosity. It could be as simple as taking a few seconds to pop your head into someone’s office and saying thank you to them for expending their life-energy to make your business successful.”

Related: Cultivate These 11 Habits to Achieve Meaningful Success

5. Play nice with your co-workers and show mutual respect

“Just be nice, as simple it sounds. It’s one of the most measurably effective things you can do to easily and immediately increase happiness at work. Researchers saw this in a recent nursing industry organisational trust study and intervention. The nurses who took part were burning out and unhappy.

“To the surprise of the researchers, the nurses weren’t burning out because of the long hours and pay and compensation issues. What was really heard loud and clear: There was a culture of incivility that everyone was grappling with – a habit and culture of being unkind, competitive, snarky and hostile to each other. In working through those systemic causes of unhappiness, and learning to be simply nice to each other, the nurses were eventually able to come to a place of well-being.”

Bottom line: Be kind, don’t be cutthroat and lay off the snark.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

Self Development

6 Mental Barriers You Must Tear Down To Succeed

The world has few obstacles as formidable as the ones in our own mind.

Timothy Sykes

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Mental Barriers

Have you hit a slump in your career? If you are finding it difficult to get ahead, it could be because you’re inadvertently holding yourself back in ways you don’t even realize.

Many of us have unhealthy habits and behaviors that stunt our career growth. By becoming aware of them, it’s possible to begin facing these obstacles head-on so that you can remove potential roadblocks to your future success. Here are 6 surprising things that are holding you back:

1. You don’t know the basics

What if you were to build a house on top of a weak foundation? It might be fine for a while, but one day, it would inevitably cause problems and affect your quality of life. Similarly in your career, if you don’t take the time to form a strong foundation of knowledge in your field, it may keep you from advancing and growing later on. Therefore, it’s vital to learn (and sometimes to re-learn) the basics.

There’s no shame in hitting the books and learning the basics or re-learning them, even well into your career. You know how when you re-watch a movie or re-read a book you pick up on things you didn’t notice the first time around? It’s very much the same in career education. So whether you’re a baker or an investor or a manager, make sure to develop a strong foundational knowledge of your field of work. It will serve you in many ways as your career advances.

Related: Purposeful Work: The Six Barriers To Fulfilment In The Workplace

2. Vague goals

Setting clear and specific goals is one of the major building blocks of career success. On the flip side, without specific goals, you’re more likely to suffer from lack of motivation and aimlessness in your career.

Want proof? Consider the work of Dr. Edwin Locke, who released a still-relevant article in 1968 entitled “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives.” In this research-based article, he determined that employees were most highly motivated by clear objectives and specific feedback.

Working toward extremely specific goals provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the desired end result, which improved performance. Moreover, specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.

3. Caring too much what others think

According to Aristotle, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Are you too much of a people pleaser? If so, this tendency could be holding you back from finding the success you deserve.

No matter what you do, you’ll never please everybody. Yes, you should always make your best efforts in any endeavour, and you should always try to be respectful of the opinions of others. However, don’t let other people’s opinions affect your every move. If you do, you’ll constantly operate from a place of fear and will never achieve great things.

4. You’re trying to figure out everything without a mentor

 Bill Gates, Bob Dylan, Oprah Winfrey. What do these people have in common? They’re all crazy successful…and they all had mentors.

Many people suffer from the belief that to become successful, they have to do the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest alone. However, this mindset is likely stunting their career and slowing down success. Truthfully, seeking out the guidance of a mentor is both a brave and smart career move. A mentor who is further along in their career than you can help advise you, point you in the right direction and help you avoid common pitfalls. There is so much to gain from having a mentor; why hold yourself back by trying to do everything alone?

5. Poor time management

Without a doubt, pursuing a new career or business endeavor takes time. Many people claim that it’s impossible to work toward their dreams because there’s just no time. But is this really true?

The fact is, nobody’s ever going to gift wrap extra time and give it to you like a present. It’s your responsibility to make time. It might involve changing some of your habits like bingeing on Netflix or getting lost on Facebook for hours on end. Or, it might mean that you wake up early in the morning like Apple CEO Tim Cook, who gets up at 3:45 so he can answer emails and take some time for himself before the responsibilities of the day descend. There are always ways to make time for what matters if you’re truly driven to succeed.

Related: Is Your Business Prepared For The Worst? How You Can Stress-Test Your Business

6. You stopped learning

Lifelong learning is a trait of the most successful people. Don’t you want to be one of them? If you think you know everything, then there’s no possible way for you to continue moving forward in your career or even your life.

As Malcolm X famously said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” When you approach the world as if you can learn from every experience and every person, you’ll reap many benefits. You’ll be able to keep improving, you’ll be able to remain mentally nimble, and since you won’t be a know-it-all, people will probably like you a lot better. Never stop learning if you want to keep growing.

Are any of these things secretly holding you back?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

(Infographic) How 9 Creative Minds Got Their Ideas

From doing headstands to drinking 50 cups of coffee a day, check out the quirky things that these nine creatives have done.

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cat-in-the-hat

Coming up with new, creative ideas can be tricky. That’s why it’s important to find a way to get inspired. After all, it’s our own unique rituals that can bring mental clarity and creativity. That could be a quirky habit or routine such as doing headstands or wearing lots of hats.

Igor Stravinksy did headstands, which he believed helped to rest his head and clear his brain. Author Dr. Seuss felt that wearing lots of crazy hats helped inspire his creativity and overcome writer’s block. However, those aren’t even the strangest routines that some of the world’s most brilliant minds have utilised. Steve Jobs bathed his feet in toilet water to reduce stress levels while Honore de Balzac drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day.

Check out Business Backers infographic below to learn the weird ways that nine creative minds got their ideas.

1533319920_unusual-inspiration-infographic

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

15 Traits Of Unstoppable People

Unstoppable people keep their inner fires burning by developing the characteristics necessary to become successful.

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successful-people

Unstoppable people are like warriors. They are always ready to take on the world. They are guided by a light from within, full of boundless energy and unwavering in their goals. They have learned to activate their natural talents and develop the skills necessary to achieve whatever they aim for.

How do they do this? Where do they find the stamina and strength to keep going? Unstoppable people keep their inner fires burning by developing the characteristics necessary to become successful. Here are 15 traits that will help you go from being a solid achiever to being a truly unstoppable person.

Do you have any yet?

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