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Why & How to Stoke Happiness at Work

By Snap Agency May 5, 2015

“Imagine” you’re having some type of difficulty at work. Picture it in your mind’s eye. Now imagine getting an e-mail in the morning with someone telling you why they find you valuable to the team. What is a challenge, becomes a worthwhile challenge. Now even better imagine yourself sending that e-mail, and sending e-mails like that on a regular basis. Things like this put you in the right mindset. Remembering the things you’re grateful for keep you in a positive mindset, and from my personal experience being in a positive mindset helps me be at my optimal productivity level.  Our team at Snap has committed to doing some of the things in our list of “Strategies for stoking happiness at work” below, but first…

Why does happiness at work matter?

I know… you’re going to finish that project, and then you’ll have time to be happy. But wait, according to Shawn Anchor in “The Happy Secret to Better Work”, Ted Talk this hoped and dreamed of ‘all goals finished’ moment never comes.  “Most companies and schools follow a formula for success which is this: if I work harder I will be more successful and if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That under guards most of our parenting styles, our managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior and that problem is that it is scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons. First, every time your brain has success, you changed the goal post of what success looks like… And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, then your brain never gets there. What we’ve done is push happiness over the cognitive horizon as a society… ”

Intelligence, creativity and energy rise when you’re happy

Shawn goes on to state: “…the real problem is that our brain works in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage. Which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact we found, every single business outcome improves… Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You are 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19% faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnoses when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed…”

This is supported by research from more than one source, including a study done by The University of Warwick in England that states, “Unhappiness in the background can be conceived of as an employee’s (rational) need to devote psychic attention away from the job task. Happier workers need to do so less. In consequence, they achieve higher productivity.”

Strategies for stoking happiness at work

Grab a couple, mix and match, by all means make them your own. The idea is not to have more to-do’s on your list, but to break up the one’s that you currently with some intentional mood-shifters. Work out, get grateful and get productive with this list of practical ideas for stoking happiness at work. I think this image from ‘The Millionaire Real Estate Energy Plan’ is relevant here. In this case I think ‘energy’ very much is closely related to happiness.


Millionaire real estate energy plan

1. Get “in the zone,” by working hard at things you like, that are challenging but that you are highly skilled at.

In positive psychology, flow, or ‘getting in the zone’ is a mental state of someone immersed totally in an activity and in a state of energized focus. The Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term to describe someone who is channeled. It actually seems to happen most when someone is doing something that is challenging, but that they are good at and it sometimes leads to moments of spontaneous joy. To reach this state of mind one you need to have a clear set of goals and progress. The task must have clear and immediate feedback, and there has to be a balance between the perceived challenge and one’s perceived skills.

As you can see, this might take some time to build up to if you are in the beginning of a new career or endeavor, but in my experience it is highly worth it. When I’m creating some visual design or doing front-end development and it’s somewhat hard but I know what I’m doing I experience extended periods of delight. Worth getting up for, for sure.

2. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for in the morning.

morgan molitorTake it from our own Morgan Molitor, being grateful is important: “My faith keeps me grateful. Every morning I have a 45 minute drive to work that gives me time to reflect of all the things I am thankful for. Some people think I’m crazy for commuting so far but to me that gives me time in the morning to start my day out right, being grateful!”

You can even make it a habit to write down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning. By making gratefulness habits it just gets you thinking about the good in your life, so even when you have challenges you remember why it’s worth it. Supercharge the habit with any or all of these options: Doodle with it, right down the reasons why you’re grateful for the things you’re grateful for, re-read them later in the day .

Have you ever chatted with someone less fortunate that you are at the moment? How does that shift your mindset? Morgan says, “My brother also keeps me grateful. He is currently incarcerated and every week that I talk to him I am reminded of how lucky I am. Things he misses I would otherwise be taking for granted. Instead he opens my eyes, helping to keep me humble and grateful. I think about how grateful I am every single day. I don’t make lists, I try to stay grateful in the moment.”

Have you ever gotten done volunteering with people who are not in as fortunate of a situation as you are, and you are just like “Wow. Stuff that seemed so huge just seems so small,” and you start thinking about how many great things you have in your life. Food, home, and family. So many simple things that just need to be noted more often so that we can realize how good we have it.

3. Journal about positive experiences.

Several people around our office have started to use a little nicely designed tool called the ‘Passion Planner,” and besides goal-setting around a ‘game-changer’ that you specify, you are encouraged to reflect on your week, and the things that happened that were awesome. Not a bad way to recap, and to set you in the right tone for the rest of the week.


Passion Planner - Energize your happiness at work


4. Exercise at work by taking a walk at a set time every day.

Sumia Fury - Happiness at work initiativeSnap’s Sumia Fury believes in exercise, not just outside of work , but in the work day: “My daily walks let me be able to take my mind off of what is on my computer screen and enjoy the weather. It’s amazing what a short ten minute break from your desk can do on a stressful day. Then, when I get back, I can put my brain back on ‘go’ and I don’t feel as tense as I was before my walk.” People around the office say that they feel more productive when they go on these walks on a regular basis.

I get caught up and get in the zone, or feel like I’m too busy for this sometimes so I asked her how she remembers to do this: “My first suggestion is to make the walks around the same time every day. It makes you go outside on those days that you don’t think you have the time. If need be, put them in your calendar with a reminder. Secondly, have people around the office go on the walks with you. The more, the merrier! You then have the chance to bond with your coworkers and get to know them outside of the office.”

Not only that, but we get down with some 5-minute ab workouts in the middle of the day some times, or these ridiculous step-ups. *Hint: watch out for ceiling lamps.


5. Do some breathing exercises to help your mind get calm and focused.

Meditation can be as extravagant as you want including meditation that involves active imagination, but the form I’m most familiar with is Zen Meditation. It’s really just sitting quietly, paying attention to your breath, and allowing other thoughts to pass by your mind’s eye and continually bringing your conscious thoughts back to your your breath and the present moment.

We have an audiobook that has been circulating around the office that is the science behind meditation and some guided breathing exercises. The long and short of it is that it helps you be more calm, focused and in the moment. You can check out that program in paperback, cd or mp3 audio-book here: “Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing.” Basically for me anything from Nootropics (Supplements and vitamins for brain function), to running, to affirmations are huge in my opinion for productivity, and I think productivity correlates strongly to my idea of happiness at work.

6. Random acts of kindness: Send ‘I’m grateful’ message to someone as your first e-mail of the day.

Danielle Eisenbacher - Happiness at Brought to us by our wonderful Director of Production Danielle Eisenbacher, some of us have started to send out an e-mail in the morning to someone we’re grateful to and why. “I am always skeptical about people claiming they can change your brain or alter the way you think.  I’m stubborn and tend to be cynical most of the time…  But what I’ve noticed is that starting my day of emails with positive intention helps me continue, throughout the day, to look for something or someone to be grateful for because in the back of my mind I know that I have another gratitude email to write tomorrow morning.  For me, it’s a small step in an effort to find the good in everyone.  But I do think it’s improved my mood – and my hope is that my co-workers, friends, and family that have been recipients feel more appreciated and perhaps, it improves their day as well.”
“I’ve created a daily meeting for myself in the morning – it’s just 10 minutes, but it’s a reminder and scheduled into my work day so that I don’t forget.  I also put it in my passion planner which I think helps me remain vigilant about gratitude throughout the day.   I can send out an invite to people that want to participate.”

9. Read something, sharpen your skills, and keep your knowledge increasing every day.

Abby Olson LinkedIn, Twitter, Photo, White Board, Girl writing on white boardSnap’s Abby Olson keeps her energy up by continuing to learn: “I keep my brain sharp by reading every day. Since I finished “Mindset” by Carol Dweck and found out how much the desire to learn directly correlates with success, I’ve made sure to always have book at home that I’m working to get through. If I don’t find time during the day to read a full chapter, I’ll at least make sure to catch up on recent posts from some of my favorite bloggers.”

Learning a minimum of one idea a day from someone who knows a lot more than me keeps me humble, and feeling capable at the same time. Those ideas stick with me throughout the workweek and I find myself regularly utilizing them. For example, I subscribe to Seth Godin and James Altucher’s blogs and try to read them as soon as I check my email when I wake up in the morning. These two are especially well versed in the more personal, human side of marketing. They give great advice on how to incorporate compassion and empathy into your work. Starting off the day with their updates significantly improves my overall happiness and the quality of my work.”

8. Random acts of kindness: Keep some ‘I’m grateful for’ slips around the office.

Brenna French - Happiness at workWe just started a thing where we write down a specific person and thing we’re grateful for and put them in a bowl, and at the end of the month we go over them. If you gave one you could be drawn randomly to win a gift card.  I’ll give this over section over to our talented visual designer Brenna French: “Speaking from my own experience, when I work with people as equally or more talented in both similar and different ways it inevitably causes me to think bigger in my area of expertise. “Stay out of your comfort zone.” These are the words my Mother would always express to me growing up. I understand now what is to be gained from being outside of ones “comfort zone”, constructive criticism and new ideas that molds you into a better person. Without positive feedback from your peers those pieces of constructive criticism and new ideas can weigh on you and begin to feel like burden. Sometimes you hit a wall and all it takes to climb over it is some support from the people that effect you the most everyday.”

“The “what you’re grateful for” slips at Snap support the idea of being comfortable with staying uncomfortable in my mind. For example I received a slip from Tim that reassured me that I was doing good work with client that had a lot of revisions in the first step of our process. That little piece of gratefulness provided me with the fuel I needed to keep pushing forward because I was starting to feel a little discouraged with all of those changes, all it took was for someone that I respect to tell me you did really good and that was enough to give me energy for round two.”

“I also gain a lot from expressing gratefulness to others. At work the first thing I gain by showing gratefulness to my coworkers is to make them feel good and have a better day which makes me feel great. But before I say anything to this person I take time to reflect on how their actions will effect me in a positive way ultimately pushing us both to do our best work possible.”


How about you? Do you have any tips or tactics for how to stoke happiness at work? Leave a comment below and tweet this article, thanks!

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