Let’s face it, when it comes to staying healthy, most of us know what we ought to do. But losing weight, quitting smoking, fitting in more exercise, or even just getting an annual flu shot can feel hard sometimes, because we have to change our habits to do them.
Science to the rescue! The newest thinking, which has been steadily moving from academic circles to the workplace, focuses on the power of wellness. Inspired by Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, this approach says wellness is just as important as disease prevention, because it increases productivity and happiness. And don’t we all want to be happy?
In his book “Authentic Happiness,” Seligman cites research that says happier people get better performance evaluations and high pay. This mirrors earlier studies, including a review of 225 papers, that found that happy people are also successful people.
Psychologist Shawn Achor calls it the “happiness advantage.”
“Every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive,” says Achor, whose TED Talk “The Happy Secret to Better Work” has racked up more than 13 million views.
Researchers at the University of Warwick went even further and quantified the link. After carrying out a number of experiments, they announced that happy people are 12 percent more productive than their grumpier counterparts.
So, while the Silicon Valley cliche of doing yoga or playing ping pong during the workday may seem like a stretch to some, “believe it or not, that can actually increase productivity,” says Rally Health behavioral scientist Ezequiel Galarce. “You want to encourage people to do the things they want to do, and to have fun.” Instead of working harder, the thinking goes, the goal is to work better.
Best of all, the way for you to work better is to be happy. Try one of these six simple steps to help boost your mood, and improve your work life while you're at it.
- Meet with friends every week. Not only do friendships help us manage stressful situations, but being a part of a supportive community can also boost your immune system and keep your brain sharp.
- Be grateful every day. Many studies show that having a grateful attitude can improve the quality of your life and even your physical health. Try writing down three things that went well every day.
- Laugh every day. It’s true, laughter really is the best medicine. So go ahead, send around that funny cat video, or encourage others to do it. Among other things, laughter is good for your heart and even dulls pain.
- Do something creative this week. Knitting, playing guitar, arranging some flowers — whatever makes you happy, do something creative just once this week. Creative fun stimulates the brain and keeps you in touch with your playful side.
- Read for 20 minutes. We’re not talking email, either. We mean reading for fun, whether it’s biographies, romances, or graphic novels. It’s a great way to wind down after a stressful day.
- Keep a mood diary. Whether you're generally upbeat or feeling down, a mood diary can help you see patterns — maybe there’s a colleague who always makes you laugh, or a task that stresses you out. If you're old school, jotting some thoughts in a notebook will do the trick. Or if you are more the high tech type, try apps like Track Your Happiness, iMoodJournal, or MoodPanda.