THE BLOG
11/19/2014 12:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

7 Mindfulness Tips for Happiness at Work

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So many people are miserable at work! Millions, it turns out. No matter what the "work" is -- corporate leaders, cashiers and food service employees, entrepreneurs -- we're a culture of misery when it comes to work.

And the costs of that misery are high indeed, both in the workplace, as well as for individuals. In this CDC article, depression "is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion."

Factor in stress, anxiety, plus OCD and other behaviors that can be the result of stress, anxiety and depression, and we're talking about an enormous cost.

The good news is that individuals have a great deal of control over their own happiness (as do organizational cultures, but that's a different article).

1. Control ... Sometimes It's Good

What/where is one area of your work life that you can control? Start small, and simple. Keeping part of your desk cleaned-up? Getting through your email box every day? Taking a regular morning and afternoon break, and getting outside and simply breathing for 10 minutes?

Any one small positive mindful action begins to reset your neural pathways. Which helps you begin feeling happier almost immediately. Which helps you be more productive. Which results in you feeling happier.

Which results in your co-workers and bosses feeling happier. See how it works?

"Studies show that people with a greater sense of control at work are more likely to have job and family satisfaction. They're also better at their jobs, research reveals."

2. Mindset ... Start Shifting It

Most people believe that once they're successful, then they'll be happier. The truth is the other way around: first, get happier. Then, you'll be more successful.

In turns out that happiness is probably the most misunderstood factor in on-the-job performance.

Work with your mindset first. Choose one of these simple activities and do it each day, for three weeks.

  • Three good things -- make a quick note at the end of the day of three things that were good. Doesn't have to relate to work activities ... what felt good this day?
  • Send one 1-sentence positive email to someone who's supportive of you.
  • Meditate at your desk for two minutes.
  • Shut your office door and do 10 minutes of yoga, or the New York Times 7-minute workout. No door? Walk for 10 minutes.
Keep a little notebook or electronic folder in your computer for making a quick daily note of the best thing that's happened in the past 24 hours. Two minutes tops.

At the end of three weeks, ask yourself if you're feeling a little bit better. More relaxed? Is it easier to deal with that one person who just makes you crazy? Did you get a little bit happier?

I'm not talking Everything's perfectly wonderful, and what a magical new world!

We're going for a little easier, just a bit more relaxed. Better is going in the right direction. Mindful attention helps us choose the best direction.

3. Who You Hanging With?

Studies that measure levels of happiness consistently find that social connections are hugely important. Not connected? Isolated? No one to hang with? Chances are you're less happy.

In The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky says "the centrality of social connections to our health and well-being cannot be overstressed."

The enhanced feeling of community that results from positive social connections translates to lower absenteeism, burnout, and turnover, as well as increased motivation.

Pay attention to who's around you. Just notice whatever you notice.

If you're not comfortable with co-workers, bosses, colleagues, are there mindset shifts you can make to create more ease for yourself? Is there one person you can connect with on the job to help bolster your need for positive social connection?

If you work alone, get yourself some support: a mastermind group, a thriving family or tribe, a hiking meet-up group... something fun, with like-minded folks.

Breathe into your truth. Remember how much this matters. Notice what shows up. Then, choose consciously to start making one new connection this week.

4. Letting Go of White-Knuckling Control

Too many times people are miserable at work because that they're holding on to a storyline that just isn't true. Do you hear yourself saying That's OK, or This is good enough, or, I can make this work.

Don't pretend away the truth, that doesn't work anyway. Step off the moving sidewalk inside your head -- the one that's going nowhere. Find your breath, feel your low belly as you inhale and exhale.

From that quieter place, allow your deeper feelings to arise. Just let whatever is true be present. You can then begin to release some of that white-knuckling pretense that it's all OK if it isn't.

5. Love ... (or at least, Like)

You're not here, in Earth School, to be miserable. One of the top five reasons for women feeling miserable at work is that they're not happy about what they're doing because there's no positive meaning to it.

You're here to get some things done. And the rest of us need you to start doing what you're here to do. Honest.

If you're not loving (or at least liking) what you're doing, take some quiet time to begin cultivating a relationship with your passions and desires.

6. That Bitchy Factor

Just check it out. Are you a wee bit crankier than usual? Is everyone just gettin' on your last nerve?

Slow it all down (yes, you can ... minimal whining, please). Get yourself alone for five minutes (10 is better, but no need to stress out even more).

Ask yourself, What's going on? How do I really feel? Give your truth some space. Weep, wail, rage, curl up into a tiny little ball (it's only five minutes, remember? not forever).

Wow. What did you notice? Let it all be.

So much of the time, that bitchiness thing? It's a mask for feeling trapped. Making some space for the truth is the foundation of mindfulness. Whatever it is, it's OK.

7. What Work-Life Balance?!

Humans need balance. Bummer that our culture doesn't actually support it. The mindful solution? Stop relying on cultural ideas about "work." Start cultivating a relationship with your own values, and begin making choices from them.

Remember, any positive action you take to create more happiness in your work life results in less stress and anxiety. And more ease, and happiness.