The Secrets To Happiness

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“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions” according to the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the French are “suffering from existential gloom”[i]  and are, on average, an unhappy and dissatisfied population (graph below). Happiness in the workplace is essential for high productivity and a good working atmosphere. Many people expect a change of job, location or friends to dramatically change their quality of life without looking into their own faults.  Review your outlook on life, professional relationships, spending habits and physical health in order to increase your happiness and fulfilment in life and the workplace.

 

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Attitude

 

If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job. Optimism in the workplace creates a more comfortable and content environment. View your glass as half full rather than half empty and appreciate what you have in order to avoid negativity.

It is important to feel comfortable in yourself at work. Embrace your own personality and opinions rather than shying away. Build your confidence and self esteem to have a voice that people listen to. Admiration from friends and co-workers will follow along with higher self-respect and happiness.

Complement your confidence and positivity with a smile. According to a recent study[ii], smiling more throughout the day can increase levels of happiness. Furthermore, you will seem more approachable and friendly to co-workers which is essential.

 

Relationships

 

Good relationships at work create a happy environment. Happy people spend significantly more time talking to others in general whereas unhappy people spend much more time alone[iii]. This is because the body “is designed to feel happier when engaged in social interactions”[iv].  Try to find a common ground with colleagues and share interests. With good relationships at the office, you won’t depend on the work itself for a sense of meaning. You’ll find meaning in interactions with the people you care about to elate your mood.

 

Money

Does money buy happiness? Of course it is essential to ensure you have food on the table and a roof over your head, however after these priorities are taken care of it is not how much money you earn but it is what you do with it that makes us happy. Spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on yourself[v]. Donate money and time to worthy causes rather than selfish luxuries and begin to feel better in yourself.

 

Health

Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation[vi]. A mere 20 minutes of exercise, three days each week will increase your happiness by 10 to 20 percent after six months[vii]. Try walking to work or going for a walk at lunch time to fit in a daily dose. Top this up with a healthy diet and plenty of sleep to give your body and brain the energy it needs to be healthy and happy. If you are middle-aged, aim to get at least eight hours of sleep per night; the young and elderly should try and have nine to eleven hours of sleep per night.[viii]

 

Conclusion

Don’t put your happiness in someone else’s hands and try to make the changes yourself to increase your quality of life and happiness at work. Priorities may need to be altered to become an even happier person and it may not be an easy decision. However, if you are not the happiest you could be it is essential to make an active effort to change your lifestyle. Remember that happiness is a journey and not a destination[ix] so there is no time to waste.

 

 

 

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/24/french-taught-to-be-gloomy

[ii] http://greatist.com/happiness/reduce-anxiety

[iii] http://trueslant.com/wrayherbert/2010/03/01/the-perils-of-small-talk/

[iv] https://www.uniiverse.com/neuroscience

[v] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/319/5870/1687.short

[vi] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

[vii] http://www.davidweedmark.com/archives/facts-about-happiness/

[viii]  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/AN01487

[ix] Ben Sweetland

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Can stress be a good thing?

At work – as in all walks of live – it is an absolute given that stress is considered a bad thing. Humans have a competitive nature and we are programmed to strive to achieve the highest results possible and to be the best at whatever we do. It is clear then why we as humans are also prone to stress. As a word, stress has all sorts of bad connotations; from hindering performance to causing health issues. So what exactly are the problems caused by stress? Can stress actually be a help as well as a hindrance?

Image via jetheriot (Flickr)

Stress can be caused by a whole range of things; pressure to perform at work, problems with family or relationships, tight deadlines – the list goes on. It is no secret that feeling stressed and under pressure leads to nerves, which can in turn affect performance. Nerves often affect how we think, causing us to over-think tasks and scenarios and clouding our ability to deal with them. Nerves and stress complicate tasks that should be easy and energy is wasted as nervous energy. There are of course plenty of methods of dealing with minor stress, from herbal remedies to breathing techniques. Athletes deal with the threat of stress and nerves through extensive preparation, by analysing the competition, getting to know the court and of course through a lot of practice. This tactic can be applied on other occasions when people are prone to stress. A good example is exam preparation; students practise papers under exam conditions, simulating conditions as close as possible to those of the exam to find out how they cope under stressful circumstances. Even with preparation, nerves are rarely kept completely at bay. Despite this, being as prepared as possible will without doubt reduce the number of unknown elements of a task or situation to feel stressed about. Effects of long-term stress are harder to deal with. Unhandled, stress can eventually lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, exhaustion and depression. It is absolutely undeniable that stress can bring about problems, but can we channel stress to work for us, rather than letting it develop and become a real problem?

So if we forgot all the negative connotations for a moment, what exactly would stress be? A burst of energy and concentration on the requirements of a particular task. Through all the nervous panicking that we do due to stress, we often ignore the fact that stress hormones also bring about a faster heartbeat, sharpened senses and adrenalin. In other words, exactly the things that help you get a task done. Considering these physical manifestations, stress can be viewed as your body’s way of telling you what needs to be done. A moderate amount of stress gives us a short term buzz, enabling us to work efficiently and perform tasks to a high level. After all, when is it that most of us get things done? It’s usually when we are under pressure from a looming deadline! By looking out for stress and using it to complete tasks as opposed to running away from it, we can channel stress into productive energy, turning it into a help rather than a hindrance.

Stress does of course affect everybody differently, so how it can be used to positive effect depends on the individual. I’m not suggesting for a moment that serious stress should be ignored completely; this could of course have severe implications. A little extra energy used as motivation on the other hand never hurt anyone. It’s all about analysing the situation and taking control rather than letting stress take control of you!

Help! I have a really bad boss.

Did you know that many of us spend around a third of our lives at work?

We all know that our boss has a huge impact on our working life, so it follows that bosses have a great effect on our lives and happiness in general. The ideal boss is competent, kind and earns and deserves the trust and respect of their employees. Bosses have the power to determine which tasks we take on at work, decide how much is expected of us and – of course – to ultimately fire us. Feeling under-appreciated, mistreated or bullied by a boss can leave you feeling weary, frustrated, unmotivated and most of all unhappy. It is no surprise therefore, that being faced with a bad boss is cited as one of the main reasons why employees leave their jobs. So what coping tactics can be employed when you are faced with a bad boss? How do you decide that enough is enough and it’s time to take action?

So you’ve just started to pick up on your boss’s behaviour. Perhaps he makes snide remarks or is unkind and critical regarding your efforts at work. Stay calm and take a moment to think. Have you been working hard recently and doing all that is expected of you? If the answer is no, then maybe it is you that needs to change your attitude. If it is a yes, however, then it sounds like your boss is out of line. Keep track of your achievements. Perhaps this is a temporary blip. Can you solve the problem by highlighting what you have done well recently? If you have only noticed your boss make a few unkind remarks, shining the light on how well you’ve been doing might do the trick. Maintain professionalism at all times. It may be tempting to respond to unkind words with more of the same, but this will do you absolutely no favours and there really is no need. Remember that you haven’t been doing anything wrong, so remaining professional and carrying on as you always do will stand you in the best stead should matters get worse. Pay attention to your boss’s behaviour. Should his jibes continue to the point that you feel that it’s more than a blip, it’s time to do something about it. The last thing you want is to let it slide so that your boss thinks that they can get away with treating you (and other employees) like this.

The next question to ask yourself is: Does he realise he’s bad? Think about what exactly it is that your boss does badly. Once you have identified exactly what the problems are, it is much easier to try to solve them. Let’s consider some examples.

The hands-off boss. When you approach a job raring to go and eager to learn, there’s nothing worse than feeling that your boss neglects to give you direction. This sort of bad boss may really be making an honest mistake. Perhaps they are just trying to give you space to learn and develop through your own experiences. If you feel that you need more from them however, take action ASAP. The majority of problems that bosses have with their PAs – and vice versa – are down to a lack of communication. Talk to your boss, but choose the time wisely. NEVER approach your boss to discuss a sensitive issue in a meeting, when he’s in a rush or in company. You want to have his full attention in a calm environment. Tell your boss what help and direction you need, but be careful not to criticise him. He’s much more likely to listen and make an effort to change if you keep the focus on you and your needs.

The bully. If your boss calls you names, intimidates or is critical, the chances are he knows exactly what he’s doing. As ever, stay professional. Focus on things that you know you do well – don’t let this bad boss knock your confidence. You deserve a boss who helps you grow in your job and creates a professional working environment. If this isn’t what you’re getting, remember that you are not the one in the wrong. Try talking to your boss. Even though this idea may be daunting, your boss deserves the opportunity to make changes before you take greater action or seek out his superior. If talking makes no difference, it may be time to talk to someone higher up. Be very careful here. Criticism of your boss could come across as criticism of his boss, so be objective and professional. This conversation could have a great effect on your future in the company – how you are considered by those in another department you could be transferred to, for example – so professionalism is an absolute must. The HR department might be able to give you a second opinion and help you plan what you are going to say. Your boss is likely to react badly to the news that you have gone to his boss, so make sure that you have exhausted all other options beforehand.

Hopefully taking action and talking things over with the right people should solve most problems with bad bosses, whether it leads to a change in their ways, or perhaps to you being transferred elsewhere. If you end up parting ways with your boss, don’t burn bridges. Be gracious and learn from this experience. Think about what exactly this boss did that made him bad and how it made you feel. You can take this information with you to learn from should you ever become a boss. Remember, you deserve to feel at ease at work, in an environment where your self esteem and competences are nurtured. If your boss doesn’t make you feel this way, then don’t just let it go!

Creating the perfect work/life balance

One of the most difficult things to achieve in life is a perfect work/life balance. Whether you’re the head of a multi-national corporation or working your way through school, you have to find a way to manage your commitments. A lot of times in life you will hear people complaining that they don’t have enough time to do everything, that they simply have too much to do, and often this can create a situation where work rules our lives. But it doesn’t have to. Work is an inevitable, and important, part of life. What you have to remember though, is that it shouldn’t control the way in which you live your life. The key is to find a way that you can balance the professional and personal aspects of your life in a way that allows you to gain the most from both. But how can you do that?

Here are some tips which I have used to help me find the best balance:

#1: Use a calendar

It sounds simple enough but so many people don’t use one. If you can give yourself a schedule so you know exactly where you have to be and what you have to be doing at what time then you make life so much easier for yourself. Taking the few minutes it takes to be organized will save you so much time in the future. Perhaps take a little time on a Sunday to plan and think about what’s going on in the coming week. Having a visual aid really helps to give some structure to your life.

 #2: Disconnect

Today we live in a society where we are constantly connected to each other via the digital world. Whether it be on your iPhone, iPad or any other mobile device you may own most people nowadays are hooked up at all times. So, now more than ever, it’s important to take time off and get away from that world. You can work this time off into your schedule so it doesn’t affect your work life. People need time to themselves and time with their family and friends and being able to take this time away from work you are much more likely to be productive when you get back.

#3: Look forward

It is essential in life that you always have something to look forward to, and let’s face it, a lot of us work so we can do these things. Simply put, you have to have fun. If you give yourself things to look forward to the chances are you will feel a lot better about what you’re doing and you’ll be able to maintain a positive attitude. The more you have to look forward to, the easier it is to remember why you’re putting in so much work in the first place.

#4: Have a little perspective

One of the biggest problems in today’s working world is the over-analyzing of every aspect of our day-to-day lives which ultimately results in (unnecessary) stress. If you let the little things get on top of you it will bring you down, mentally and physically. So what if you’ve encountered a few problems today? The likelihood is the world isn’t going to end. Just think about the positives in your life and even the fact you’re blessed with such a problem as a work/life balance. Things could be a lot worse.

#5: Do something you love

Of course, in the economic mess we find ourselves in at the moment, finding a job is not an easy feat. But, as simple as it may sound, if you do something which you genuinely love then you can achieve happiness much more easily. Doing something you love is the perfect way to get rid of the work/life balance issue. If you love what you do then the chances are you’re happy and there is no dilemma. You’ve already figured it out.

So there are my top 5 tips for achieving a great work/life balance. It has to be said that in all honesty there really is no magic solution to achieving a perfect balance as it completely depends on you, but try doing some of these things and you stand a much better chance of being happy and ultimately achieving a balance that suits you.