Staying happy in the working world can be challenging, especially if you feel that your job is unfulfilling or more stressful than it's worth. But your attitude can determine your destiny; a bad attitude can make a great job seem terrible, while a positive mentality can turn even a bad day into a relatively enjoyable experience.

That isn't to say there's no such thing as a bad job; if you find you're completely underutilized, underappreciated, or underpaid--and determine that logically, rather than emotionally--it could be time to leave. But if you leave prematurely, or because your job outlook is the real problem, you may find yourself equally unhappy in your next opportunity.

Instead, start adopting the habits of happy employees. These habits can't magically make your problems go away, but they can help you adopt a healthier, more positive mentality toward your ongoing work:

1. They see problems as opportunities. Studies show that the perception of stress is just as significant as the amount of stress in affecting long-term health. That means even if you experience high loads of stress, considering that stress to be an energizing experience rather than a harmful one can mitigate the negative effects. In the same way, happy employees don't see problems as bothersome or harmful; instead, they see them as challenging opportunities to grow or try something new. The next time you hit a major obstacle at work, think of it not in terms of what it's stopping you from doing, but instead, what it's enabling you to do.

2. They express gratitude. Expressing gratitude, in one way or another, will help you see what's good and important in your job, rather than what's bad or insignificant in it. Each day, take time to express the gratitude you have for all the positive parts of your job. You don't even have to verbalize it--you could write it down, or even just say it to yourself in your own head. Think about the good things you have--maybe you have a nice salary, a good boss, helpful coworkers, a relaxed environment, or special perks you wouldn't get elsewhere. Whatever you do, don't dwell on all the negative elements of the job.

3. They stay busy, but not overwhelmed. If you find yourself with ample idle time, you might initially find it relaxing or even luxurious. However, being chronically underworked can negatively affect your job satisfaction and happiness. Instead, seek out new tasks or busy yourself by reading news or learning a new skill. On the other end of the spectrum, it's also important not to overwork yourself. If you're overwhelmed with tasks, it's easy to get stressed out and lose any feelings of happiness or satisfaction. If you find yourself bogged down with tasks--don't sweat it. Delegate tasks, hire an assistant, manage expectations, or just let them sit until you get to them!

4. They socialize. Office environments exist for a reason. While working from home can be a valuable means of boosting your productivity, the happiest workers in the country tend to be ones who socialize regularly--and that doesn't mean attending the greatest number of meetings. That means real, face-to-face, human interactions with your coworkers, whether that's talking about the latest episode of your favorite show around the water cooler or going out to lunch for a quick reprieve. Open up the doors of your office with conversation--you'll be surprised how much happier you feel as a result.

5. They take breaks. These days, many employees seem to have adopted a mentality that a harder worker is a better worker. They'll come into work early, work through their lunch breaks and stay late to get the job done, even working through the weekend to get a leg up on the competition. While this may have a handful of short-term gains in the form of completed tasks, it has a long-term toll on your health and happiness. Happy employees aren't afraid to take breaks. They'll step away from the computer for a few minutes, take a full lunch, and take a vacation at least once a year. Not only will this make you happier, it can also make you more productive by clearing your head and improving your focus.

6. They stay honest. Don't ever be afraid to express your opinions. If you think your boss's new idea is stupid and you hold onto it without saying anything, you'll feel angry and resentful every time you're forced to see the idea in action. If you bring up your feelings, your boss might reconsider. Even if he/she doesn't, the fact that you voiced your opinion will make you feel more satisfied--especially if your opinion ended up being right after all. Keep yourself honest, open, and transparent as often as you can.

7. They accept what can't be changed. Some things are simply beyond your control. You can't help the demanding client who needs everything done by yesterday. You can't help the fact that your boss rarely gives you the full plan in advance. Unhappy people see these things and dwell on them perpetually, constantly trying to fix them or staying angry that they exist. Happy people, on the other hand, learn to live with the idiosyncrasies of others, accepting that quirks and personality traits can't always be changed--and that's not always a bad thing.

Start incorporating these habits into your daily routine. Even if you don't notice an immediate change, in time you'll find your patterns of thinking slowly beginning to change in a positive direction. Once your mind is healthier, more engaged, and better positioned, you'll find yourself happier in almost any work environment.

Published on: Apr 2, 2015
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