With stress related absences on the rise in workplaces, due to poor communication, lack of manager support, conflict in workplaces and fear of losing our jobs, is it realistic to expect employees to feel happy at work? As countries around the world celebrate International Happiness Day and a growing number of workplaces invest in positive psychology approaches for staff, is urging us to put on a happy face a responsible and effective way to improve people's wellbeing at work?
"Sometimes at work we have very good reasons not to be happy," explains Dr. Peggy Kern from Melbourne University and one of the world's leading researchers on wellbeing and it's impact. "Recognition that it's okay to feel the way we're feeling, actually helps us to feel happier over time."
There's reason to believe that the quest for happiness could be a path to misery. In fact studies have found that the more value people place on happiness, the less happy they become. You see when we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm and excitement and unfortunately by nature these emotions tend to be fleeting. In an effort to lock these feelings down we tend to overestimate the impact of our circumstances, spend too much time comparing our current happiness to our past happiness and we become too self-focused.
"It makes more sense to broaden our understanding of happiness so it is much more than just being in a good mood at any given moment," suggests Dr. Kern. "If instead we aim for wellbeing - our ability to feel good and function effectively - this expands our focus to also connecting with others, having a sense of purpose in what we do, and accomplishing the things that matter to us."
Here are five ways you can create a balanced approach to improving your wellbeing at work on International Happiness Day:
- Balancing heartfelt positivity - In their best-selling book "The Upside of the Dark Side" positive psychologists Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan note that while positive emotions can boost our energy, self-confidence and creativity, negative emotions help to trigger our awareness that something important to us or those we care about is not right. They are a catalyst for change. Wellbeing is about having the psychological flexibility to understand when heartfelt positive emotions serve us best, and when we need to practice being comfortably uncomfortable with negative emotions that enable learning and growth. They suggest an 80/20 rule of thumb for heart-felt positive emotions to heart-straining negative ones as a guide for wellbeing. Not sure where your emotions are sitting. Track them using the free two-minute test at www.positivityratio.com.