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C'mon, Get Happy: Tips for Staying Positive at Work

C'mon, Get Happy: Tips for Staying Positive at Work

By Caroline M.L. Potter, for Yahoo! HotJobs

It's a lot easier to put on a happy face at the office when things are going well. But in lean times amid hiring freezes and an unpredictable future, it can be difficult to remain optimistic when you're on the job, especially when bad news about the economy is prevalent.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, has pinpointed several strategies to help anyone become happy. "Everything I say is based on science," she says. "The strategies I've chosen are supported by studies that have tested them."

To start seeing your morning cup of coffee as half full, Lyubomirsky recommends that workers:

Embrace Gratitude

"Focus on really appreciating what you have at work," she says. "Maybe it's a valued colleague or your boss. Or maybe it's merely the fact that you don't have to drive very far to get there." She adds that you can express gratitude directly to people in the workplace, which can "really strengthen your connections with your coworkers."

Commit Random Acts of Kindness

Lyubomirsky recommends doing things to help your coworkers without being prompted. "Give a colleague a ride to the airport, or offer up one of your own sick days to someone who doesn't have any left,"  she suggets. She points out that the benefits of committing these acts are good for both parties. "It's a good thing to do -- and it also makes you happier in the process," she says.

Be Optimistic

Instead of getting bogged down in the challenges of today, Lyubomirsky urges workers to think about the future. "Think about your goals. Imagine your dreams coming true," she says. If you don't think about things in an optimistic way, you could fall prey to a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which you've set yourself up for failure.

Reach Out to Others

Don't isolate yourself from your coworkers. Instead, reach out and engage people. "Social support is very important," says Lyubomirsky, who is a professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside. "Being around other people boosts positive emotions."

Refuse to Ruminate

When engaging with others around the workplace, focus on problem solving -- not stewing. "Rumination is just going over and over the same thing and dwelling on it," Lyubomirsky says. "It doesn't go anywhere, and it just makes you feel worse. You think you're going to get insight, but you're really just going from A to B to A to B. Avoid going in a circle and try to problem-solve together to move forward.

There are also other practical and simple shortcuts to happiness, as discovered by a group of researchers in the UK and discussed in the BBC documentary Making Slough Happy, which aired in 2005. They recommend any of these office-friendly tactics to help buoy your spirits:

  • Plant Something and Nurture It: There are plants that will thrive in even the lowest light, and caring for one can add a bright touch to a dreary workplace.
  • Give Yourself a Treat Every Day and Take Time to Enjoy It: Whether it's a chocolate after lunch or a cup of your favorite tea, a rewarding ritual can help you feel positive.
  • Have a Good Laugh at Least Once a Day: Find your funniest coworker -- or head over to or -- for a chuckle on your lunch break.
  • Smile at and/or Say Hello to a Stranger at Least Once a Day: Perhaps it's during your commute or in the company cafeteria, but take time to spread some goodwill to someone you don't know.  

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