A common misconception is that money is the strongest influencing factor of happiness at work, but a 2017 study by Curtin University shows a different story. By surveying thousands of working Australians, they found the most significant determinant of happiness at work is satisfaction with the work itself, strongly outweighing both hours worked and pay. On an individual level, this data reveals levers of job satisfaction and happiness, but how exactly can we achieve it?
Many of us do not feel that we are in any position to quit a job that we no longer love. We must support our family, prepare for retirement, and maintain a sense of normalcy in the eyes of our peers. Fortunately, happiness can be a choice that you make every day, and in this article we discuss how you can influence your environment to bring happiness to you.
Health, Wealth & Happiness
The concept of happiness is inextricably linked with health and wealth. When just one of these aspects is off-kilter, it tends to lead to an imbalance in the other two. Fortunately, with training and planning it is possible to control all three of these factors and achieve satisfaction in your work and life.
On the health side, we know that the feeling of happiness is created through the so-called “happiness hormones”, these being endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Whilst there can be chemical imbalances that should be treated by a professional, the majority of us do have the power to control these chemicals and increase our overall happiness.
At it’s most basic, the body releases the happiness hormones when you perform repetitive actions that you perceive as pleasurable. You can actually train your body to release these chemicals through repetitive actions and controlling how you think and how you act, as explained below:
- Endorphins: reduce stress and anxiety and act on the pain receptors to reduce your response to pain. Endorphins are released through exercise and laughter.
- Dopamine: helps with focus and energy. It can be increased through good nutrition, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, meditation, listening to music and massage.
- Serotonin: helps to regulate mood, promote calmness, and aids digestion and the brain-gut connection. It can be increased through a healthy diet and time spent outside in the sun and natural environments.
- Oxytocin: the love hormone. This one is simple – sex! Oxytocin is released during physical intimacy and through human touch such as hugging and massage, as well as through social interaction.
Your Happiness Scorecard
A happiness scorecard is a great way to be conscious about which actions actually make you happy. Write down three actions that, when you perform them, will make you happy, then take 5 minutes at the end of the day to tick off what you have actually done. You may wish to include items like 7.5 hours of sleep, a phone call to family, 2 litres of water, no more than 8 hours of work and less than 1 hour of screen time. These are just examples – write down the actions that make you happy and work to increase them daily.
By looking at happiness as a process rather than a destination, we can learn to appreciate the positives in our life situation right now rather just dreaming about happiness in the future.