Today I want you to think about your day-to-day work life.

Do you look forward to getting up and going to work every morning? Or maybe you hit snooze over and over and contemplate calling in sick…

Well, if you’re the dreading type, then I invite you to consider this:

You can experience regular happiness.

Although it’s very easy for us to think that some people are just born happy while others aren’t, research is showing that this is not the case at all.

While it’s true that we currently don’t know the specifics of this, we DO know that there is a growing body of work being conducted which is opening our eyes more than ever to the incredible power of emotions.

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs, you’ll be familiar with one of my favourite sayings:

Emotions are contagious.

The more we can understand the impact our emotions play in our daily lives, the better off we, and those around us, will be.

So let’s get down to the root. What makes people happy?

There are three primary components (yes, just three) that have been found to determine whether a person is able to be happy or not:

  1. A person’s happiness set point
  2. A person’s circumstances
  3. A person’s intentional activity

The first two elements, representing 60% of happiness determination, have been examined thoroughly and found to be relatively immune from external influences and our capacity to exert change on their status.

This leaves ‘intentional activity’ representing 40% – a significant amount – something we are able to control and manipulate in our quest for happiness.

According to the current available analysis, we actually have the power to change how we feel and improve our level of happiness by doing a few specific things on a regular basis. And since most of us spend a good deal of our lives at work, let’s think of how we can incorporate these aspects from “nine to five.”

So, what can we do to be happy?

Here it is…. your Guidebook To Happiness:

  1. Behavioural activities (such as exercise or performing acts of kindness)
  2. Volitional activities (such as personal goal setting)
  3. Cognitive activities (such as having positive thoughts or outlook)

(Hence the need to look on the bright side of life!)

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

But as we know, there are often days when the odds of achieving this ‘state of grace’ are very much stacked against us.

So let’s see how we can put these elements into practice.

First, build those three activities (Behavioural, Volitional, and Cognitive) into your daily life so they become part of who you are.

Once they are an aspect of your regular routine, you won’t have to remember to do them; they’ll eventually be a part of your personality.

Second, really listen to and watch people around you (i.e. your coworkers) to see if they are behaving contrary to these positive activities. If they are, you will likely find yourself affected to a certain extent by their negativity and glass half-empty view of things—emotions are contagious…

Shawn Achor talks about this very same philosophy in his seminal work, The Happiness Advantage.

You may be one of the millions of people who have seen his powerful TED talk, if not, take 12 minutes out of your day and watch it here.

Shawn tells the audience (as I am telling you) that your world becomes what you pay attention to – not the other way round.

In order to create lasting change, he suggests that you complete specific acts, which take a total of two minutes, and when done consistently for 21 days in a row, your brain will be trained to focus on all of the positive things in our world rather than zeroing in on the negative.

Here are those specific acts that will get your brain to work more optimistically and therefore more successfully:

  1. List three new things each day that you are grateful for
  2. Journal about one positive experience that you have had within the last 24 hours, thus allowing you to relive it over and over again
  3. Exercise to teach your brain that your behaviour matters
  4. Meditate and allow your brain to escape the emotional rollercoaster of our multi-tasking days
  5. Perform random acts of kindness to allow you to pay kindness forward and create a wave behind you that will sweep others up and change the landscape.

One intriguing suggestion for how we can reset our attention when we find ourselves mentally vexed is to spend more time in nature.

University of California professor of psychology, Sonya Lyubomirsky in her book The Myths of Happiness shares some great insight with us as well. She states that researchers have found that when we experience natural environments – sitting under an oak tree, viewing a sunset, or even browsing through nature photographs – our attention is captivated through our senses (smelling the ocean, picking out the colours of the rainbow) and requires little or no mental effort to allow for reflection.

By contrast, when we experience unnatural environments – sitting on a metal park bench, staring at our computer in a cubical under fluorescent lights, or texting on our smartphone – our attention is completely and intensely captured, requiring a good amount of work just to direct our attention elsewhere. It’s not surprising then, that unnatural (typically urban) environments, with all of their powerful and ubiquitous distractions, are not very peaceful or relaxing—hence why work can be that much more stressful.

Remember: what we focus on, what we pay attention to, what we selectively see in our worlds is absolutely critical to how happy we are.

And we are in control of that. It just takes a little practice sometimes.

I mentioned before that emotions are contagious and you need to align yourself with people who see the world through that same positive lens. So what can you do at work to help aid in your happiness? It might be easier than it seems…

A walk outside or a chat with a positive co-worker when the stress is too much might make your day that much better!

It may even make the world of difference.

So (with that infectious Monty Python theme music playing in my head)

Always look on the bright side of life!