What Makes You Happy At Work? The Top 5 Contributors According To Harvard

what makes you happy at work

Throughout history, one question has stood the test of time: What makes us happy? 

But let's kick it up a notch and delve into a whole new level of curiosity.

What makes you happy at work? 

And more importantly, what makes you happy in life?

It's fascinating how our answers can vary greatly, shaped by our unique circumstances and personal preferences.

However, a remarkable study conducted by Harvard University in 1938 unravels the hidden secrets of genuine happiness that often escape our modern society's attention. Brace yourself for a journey into the realm of 85-year-old research that holds the key to unlocking true happiness.

The Harvard Study On Happiness

The Harvard study on happiness details five top contributors to happiness as identified by their team of researchers. 

These five contributors are:

  1. The quality of our relationships
  2. Our emotional wellbeing
  3. Our physical health
  4. Finding our purpose
  5. The power of gratitude

Let's dive into each factor today to explore its depths and uncover its impact on both your career and personal life. Get ready for an exciting journey as we unveil how to apply these factors and unlock success in every aspect of your life.

#1 - Quality of Relationships

Positive connections with the people in your life have a magical power to elevate your happiness levels to new heights. Turns out these relationships are not just nice-to-have - they're actually fundamental to your psychological and emotional wellbeing.

And guess what? The same applies to your work life, too.

Building strong bonds with your colleagues is the secret sauce to creating a healthy work environment. It's not just about the camaraderie you share while hustling together, it's also about forging meaningful connections with your superiors and mentors that can either make or break your performance.

But wait, there's more! Cultivating relationships with your loved ones and friends at home is equally crucial. Scientific studies have shown that having a strong social support system not only boosts your physical health but also enhances your emotional wellbeing and overall satisfaction with life.

My question is - how do we cultivate quality relationships if we are not feeling good about ourselves? Our lifestyle behaviours - what we consume (food or type of news media), how we sleep, and how we move our bodies - greatly impact how we feel about ourselves. 

Read on for more about this below.

#2 - Emotional Wellbeing

Your level of emotional wellbeing significantly influences your happiness both at work and in life. Consequently, it is essential to be aware of and actively manage your emotional states.

One way to do this is by recognizing and accepting your emotions instead of repressing them. When you are conscious of how you feel at any given moment, you no longer fall victim to irrational or impulsive reactions that can cause you distress.

At the workplace, this means not letting your feelings of frustration or anger overpower you when faced with a difficult situation. Instead, try to take a step back and assess the problem from a new perspective.

Understanding how to respond in emotionally healthy ways is essential for creating an environment that promotes collaboration and happiness.

But that's not the only way to manage your emotional health. Did you know that the health of your gut biome is directly linked to your emotional wellbeing?

That's right! Eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods and probiotics can significantly boost your mood, reduce anxiety and even increase happiness in general.

That's because a healthy gut, brimming with beneficial bacteria, plays a vital role in mood regulation by producing serotonin, often referred to as the "happy hormone." Research indicates a direct correlation between gut health, mood and cognitive function.

In fact, a healthy gut microbiome can improve memory, concentration, and decision-making skills, thereby enhancing job performance and satisfaction in general.

So, don't forget to nourish yourself with nutritious foods that make you feel great from the inside out.

#3 - Physical Health

It's no surprise that physical health is a crucial factor in navigating the work-life balance and maintaining your overall wellbeing.

It's not just about fitting into your new pants - it's about taking care of your body so you can show up with maximum enthusiasm, positive body language, and energy at the office and in life each day.

Did you know sleep is key to good physical and mental health?

There are a number of things you can do to stay physically fit and healthy. The most basic of which is getting sufficient rest.

Inadequate sleep increases the risk for a range of health issues including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even mental illness. That's why it’s so important to take time out from your hectic schedule and get quality shut-eye.

Maintaining good sleep habits can enhance your overall productivity, mood, and health. In fact, getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis (aim for 7-8 hours per night):

  • Bolsters your immune system
  • Helps manage weight
  • Strengthens heart health
  • Improves concentration and creativity
  • And even contributes to a longer life span.

So don't underestimate the power of a good night's rest - it could be your secret weapon for happiness and success in both work and life.

Exercise improves performance at work and home

Exercise is another powerful weapon in the fight against physical and mental illness. Consistent, moderate-intensity workouts have been proven to sharpen our cognitive skills, boost our energy levels and even reduce stress.

After all, it's hard to stay in a bad mood when your endorphins are pumping! Plus, exercise helps us maintain a healthy weight and build muscle strength for improved physical performance.

It's not just about pumping iron at the gym either - you can reap the benefits of regular exercise simply by taking a brisk walk around the block or playing your favourite sport. Find a friend to exercise with to keep you accountable. 

Just remember to keep it consistent - consistency is key to optimal health and happiness.

Eating for optimal health

Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate sleep and regular check-ups are all essential components of sustaining good physical health.

But did you know that what you eat may be the most important of all? You may have heard the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of your health is determined by what you put in your mouth, and the other 20% by how active you are.

Food has the power to either fuel or sabotage your physical health. That's why it's important to make mindful food choices every day to nourish your body and soul simultaneously.

Eating patterns that include high amounts of processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can lead to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These conditions can impact your ability to perform at your best, both at work and in your personal life.

On the other hand, sticking primarily with whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables builds the foundation of a healthy diet. These foods are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. They not only contribute to your physical health but also to your cognitive functions and emotional wellbeing.

Moreover, mindful eating practices can enhance the relationship with food and promote healthier eating habits. Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, savouring each bite, and appreciating the nourishment food provides can lead to a balanced diet and a healthier lifestyle.

Remember, a healthy body is a happy body, and a happy body contributes to a happy, productive life at work and home. So, keep making informed food choices and practising mindful eating to maintain your health and happiness.

Finding Your Purpose

Finding your purpose is an important step to unlocking genuine fulfilment and long-term happiness. When you discover your true purpose in life, you become more engaged in your work and live with a greater sense of clarity and purpose.

It's all about aligning your values, abilities, and passions to create meaningful experiences that bring you joy each day.

Finding your purpose starts with asking yourself the right questions - e.g., What do I believe in? What am I passionate about? What makes me feel fulfilled?

Don't forget - the key is to find something that resonates with you. This requires taking the time to reflect and explore different activities and interests until you find what truly brings out your inner spark.

You can also look outside yourself for guidance - e.g., from mentors, books, podcasts or seminars. Talk to people who have found their purpose and learn from those who are walking a similar path.

Once you've identified your purpose, it's important to make an action plan to help bring it to life. Set specific goals, break them down into smaller tasks and focus on taking one small step each day.

Keeping track of progress can also be beneficial - e.g., jotting down weekly accomplishments, setting monthly intentions and conducting annual reviews to see where you've come from and how far you have left to go.

Finding your purpose, getting clear on your ability and passion, and seeking guidance can take time but it is a heck of a lot easier when you are feeling healthy from proper nutrition, sleep, sunshine and movement. 

Power of Gratitude

The power of gratitude is often overlooked when it comes to improving our wellbeing, but its effects should not be underestimated. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can increase happiness levels and reduce stress - two key components of thriving in both work and life.

The trick is to make it a habit - try expressing gratitude each day, either through writing or speaking, even if it's just for the little things. The science of gratitude - in layman's terms - comes about due to our RAS- reticular activating system. 

Let's take the example of thinking about buying a new car. A red car, in fact. And once you have thought about that, suddenly you see red cars everywhere! In your street, at your grocery store, in the work car park. Are there really more red cars on the road since you thought about buying a red car? No. But you subconsciously scan for red cars and you see more of them. 

That'sthe same thing that happens with writing or saying a few things you are grateful for. Those things you are grateful for make you happy and feel good. You have noted them in your ritual. Then you subconsciously scan for them in your working day.  

Perhaps you can start by saying thank you to those who have positively impacted your day or write down one thing that made you smile today. It doesn't have to be huge - even the smallest of things, like the progress you made on a report, your colleague who shared some market news that you didn't have time to see, your new manager's email that thanked you for your efforts on a work event.

You could also keep a gratitude journal in which you can write down 3-5 things that you're grateful for each day. Doing this regularly will help shift your focus onto the positive experiences in life and train your brain to be more resilient.

Gratitude can also have a ripple effect - when you express appreciation, it encourages others to do the same and in turn, makes them feel happier.

So next time you're feeling down at work or in life, take a moment to appreciate what's around you and enjoy the pleasure of giving thanks. Gratitude is one of the keys to unlocking a happier, more fulfilling life.

Your Takeaway About Cultivating Happiness At Work

These top 5 contributors to happiness according to Harvard's 85-year-old study on happiness - the quality of relationships, emotional wellbeing, physical health, finding your purpose and the power of gratitude - can all be cultivated in our day-to-day lives.

To be truly happy at work and in life, it's important to take good care of yourself by engaging in mindful eating habits and regular exercise. Find a purpose that resonates with you and don't forget to take time out to appreciate the little things in life.

Any questions, thoughts, comments, feedback? Please share as we truly value efforts to create a positive wellness culture in your professional and family life.

Yours in good health & a bit of dark chocolate.


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