Want to change your mood around the office? It all starts with your actions.

Smile when you walk in the door and people will know you are ready to get things done. Look down at the floor and smirk at people waiting for that morning meeting and you're giving them the message that you'll be hiding in your cubicle all day. Sometimes, seemingly trivial facial expressions, minor activities, and routine habits can reveal your mood. But these habits can do more than just reveal your mood; they can also dictate your mood.

The best way to change your attitude, experience more joy in your work life, and spread a little of that happiness around the office is to adopt habits that foster a better mood. Sure, we all get a little cranky about the Starbucks barista who scoffed at the stain on our shirt or the taxi driver who smelled like yesterday's pizza. No worries. Try a few of these activities and develop habits to increase your happiness during the day.

1. Talk to someone before checking email.

Here's a bad habit that's easy to break. Most of us charge right into our office and start checking email. It's the secret to long-term productivity, right? Not so fast. Remember that "going digital" right away means you are tuning out the actual human beings who sit around you or across the hall. Want to feel more joyful? Make some human contact first. You'll be surprised how your mood changes when you don't just rush into the digital realm.

2. Bring a co-worker some fresh coffee.

Acts of kindness toward others can help you feel more joyful. Who knew, right? Even something as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room, filling it with a potent dark blend that's freshly brewed, and bringing it to a co-worker can change your own mood. Why is that? By showing kindness you encourage happiness in others, which becomes contagious. And maybe that co-worker will return the kindness. (Will you try this one tomorrow and let me know directly if it worked?)

3. Work really hard for stretch, then focus on relationships.

I've used this trick many times. Long stretches of work during an eight-hour period can be depressing. Yet if you set a goal to finish up some intense work for a shorter period--say about three or four hours--then you will have time to refresh a little, chat with other employees about project plans, maybe even grab a dust cloth and clean up the corner meeting space for everyone else. It will create a feeling of well-being.

4. Smile first, then speak.

OK, I will admit this trick is corny and might make you look like you just ate a doughnut or bought a winning lottery ticket. But it's fine to look a little foolish if you consider the long-term benefits. Before you speak up at a meeting or in a one-on-one discussion, don't scowl or look down at your notes. Smile first. Make it a habit to wait a beat (maybe two) before speaking to convey your mood with a genuine smile, and then relay the information.

5. Get rid of the sugar.

I'm no scientist and I won't pretend to know how the chemistry in your body works. But I do know this: Gorging on doughnuts, coffee cake, and other sweets in the morning or throughout the day can zap your energy and make you feel depressed later. Amazingly, if you choose better foods like fruit for breakfast and stay away from heavy carbs, your mood will improve. You'll feel more motivated and ready to tackle projects with a bit more zip.

6. Watch a funny YouTube video.

It might seem obvious, but watching a funny video before you start your day can help you relax a little and realize you are not faced with the most monumental work challenge since time began; instead, you just have to fill out an expense report. It's drudgery, sure. No one likes expense reports. Yet, watching the video puts you in the right frame of mind and makes those tasks a bit easier. (Here's one about video conferencing snafus.)

7. Add incentives to your task list.

OK, time to bring out the big guns. I use this seemingly minor technique to motivate myself and it seems to work reliably. When you add a task to your list for the day, add a second item as a reward. For example, add a task for the travel planning you need to do for that Boston trip. Then, include another item like "run down to Starbucks and get a latte" or something similar to pat yourself on the back. It brightens your day because you'll see the tasks and the rewards. Motivation means happiness.

Published on: Sep 15, 2014
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