Be happy!

2009

Studies have shown that the majority of people hate their job. When you factor in eight hour days with the average lifespan, that means that an awful lot of people are spending something like 88,200 hours doing something they hate.

But as this article by Louisa Jewell explains, doing job you hate is demonstrably bad for you. According to Jewell, a study by "happiness researchers" Sonja Lubomirsky and Ed Diener indicates that trying to find happiness can help you live longer. Happiness at work can improve self-confidence, warmth, leadership skills, increase the number of friends you have and improve performance ratings. It can also lead to fewer sick days.

Jewell writes, "positive emotions such as joy, hope, optimism, love, appreciation and gratitude, energize us in the workplace and contribute to our overall well-being. To experience positive emotions at work, you really need to put yourself in the right job and in the right work environment." When you are stuck in a job you are not happy with or find unsatisfying you spend much of time thinking about quitting which does not lead to a productive environment.

She also states that the thoughts of leaving a job you hate can lead to bad decisions about future jobs. She states that some people who have come to her to discuss a potential job move are so desperate to leave their current job they don't realize the new job they are considering may actually be worse.

So taking the time to think about what would satisfy you and what you really want to do and then going for those jobs is actually better than leaving at the first opportunity.

Louisa Jewell has more suggestions and ideas as well for those of you looking to find some happiness. Even with a bad economy, which can make you feel trapped in a miserable situation, should not stop you from finding that job that will bring you better health and make your overall situation much happier.

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Martin Seligman (former APA president) founded the Positive Psychology movement and has proven with rigorous clinical research what this quote in a recent Denver Post article asserts: ' …scientists now believe happiness is a skill that can be learned, just like skiing or playing a musical instrument: With daily practice, you get ever better.” This, along with findings that the brain is 'plastic' and the areas associated with happiness and optimism can actually physically change and become more dominant, given certain practices, is powerful stuff! Time Magazine, Harvard and Harvard Magazine, and BBC have all focused on the new science of happiness.

At the core of this (especially as it relates to work and career) is the process (clinically supported at many universities) of identifying your Signature Strengths. The object of the game: find your Signature Strengths using an inventory and then leverage them daily. No need to enter years of therapy and examine your belly button and you mother's behavior when you were six years old! Just do something daily that uses your signature strengths and you will become measurably happy.

I'm thinking that managers might encourage everyone on their teams to engage this Signature Strengths inventory, share the results, and make job assignments accordingly. Result: A Happier workplace!

For more, including links to some of the stuff I'm talking about, visit my blog & podcast (Inspired Project Teams) and review this post: Train Yourself to Be Happier.

Thanks for shining a light on this important topic! We really must spread the word that you can develop your brain's happiness muscles even easier than you can get washboard abs!

Mike Greer Los Angeles