How to Be Happy at Work – Right Now!

We’ve all heard that delayed gratification is good for the soul. We suffer now to reap rewards later. 

The more you delay gratification the more you will dislike your job.

Not all of us can love our jobs. I don’t love mine, but I do like it. It’s all about figuring out the best way to cultivate your happiness at your job – maximizing instead of hating.

You have to be in control. Not forced control, but the type of perspective that allows you to be okay with whatever life throws at you. You may not be able to increase your pay or reduce your hours, but you have plenty of tools you can use to improve your work happiness.


I love feeling appreciated. A well timed “thank you” or “you are awesome” can make a tough day into a good one. The easiest way to receive a “thank you” is to do something unexpected for your boss or co-workers.

I try to stay aware of people’s stress levels. If they look like they are becoming overwhelmed I try to step in and offer my help. People need help when they are overloaded, but many of us get too caught up in our own problems. If we direct just a little bit of our attention to our co-workers, we will get some appreciation in return.


The people who are the unhappiest at their jobs are least likely to be engaged in their work. Lazy butts is what I like to call them. They would rather complain about what they don’t like than take control of the opportunities before them.

If you don’t feel satisfied with your productivity, try breaking the rules a little and do a job that isn’t assigned to you. I worked for K-mart for a year and a half with the biggest bunch of whiners. However, there was this one lady who didn’t partake in the complaining and instead she used her time to stay busy. She straightened everyone’s checkout lane. When I was sitting on my rump, she was straightening my aisle.

I thanked her profusely. She loved it, I loved it and the managers loved it. I actually started joining in with her (straightening each checkout lane) to see how it would make me feel. I felt productive instead of bored and my co-workers loved it.

You have to find ways to get the results that make you feel good. Experiment with different ideas and when you come across one that works, stick with it until you get bored and then change it up or find something new.


One good friend at work can change your whole perspective and emotional well-being. I interned for a leather design company in college. The owner employed an old lady to answer the phones, about six Mexicans who made the leather products in the workshop (none of them spoke English) and myself. I went into work every day trying to cold call companies about our products. It was a disaster. I wasn’t getting any results and I didn’t have a friend to share my problems with. I quit after two months.

I’ve had worse jobs, but at least at those jobs I had friends. We could vent to each other, go out after work and make each other laugh.

If you are shy or slow to make friends, try reaching out a little more. You can bring in a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies or invite someone to grab a drink after work. You have to understand the social culture of your company. It will take some time to know what works, but the more friends you make the more enjoyable your job will become.

Leisure Breaks

There are reasons why most countries have laws that require employee breaks. At some point (typically 4 hours), the longer we work without a break the less productive we become. Everyone’s threshold is different. We need to step away from our work and let our minds think in a different way to give the overused part of our brains a rest.

I’m a big fan of taking one minute breaks. 60 seconds can do wonders for reducing stress and releasing endorphins (the beautiful chemical our brain releases, making us feel happy). The more you practice taking focused breaks, the more productive you will become. You will be able to transition from one task to another with minimal lag time.

One of my favorite breaks is a cup of afternoon tea. The whole process of pulling out a tea bag, putting it in the cup then filling the cup with hot water makes me feel good. It helps me slow down and set a positive mood for the rest of the day.

If you finish a long email or project then take a minute to slow down and just enjoy a calm moment. You can move your thoughts away from stress and toward a positive outlook.

The Active Relax

So many of us just plow through our work and when we look up our backs, brain, and wrists hurt. We become all tense from just trying to get to point B. We stop paying attention to our needs and just hurry to get our work done.

When I feel my jaw tightening or my breath becoming shallow, these are my first signs of stress. Before the stress has a chance to take over, I slow down and do an “Active Relax” with my work. I downshift to a lower gear, moving my thoughts away from being super productive, and I give 50% of my focus toward relaxing and enjoying while still working. The email that I’m working on might take five more minutes to complete, but to me it’s worth it. I would rather stay at work for five more minutes instead of stressing out and rushing to get it done. It’s taking me a long time to cultivate the “Active Relax” while I work, but I would be an emotional mess without it.

Next time you are engrossed in your work, try to find a signal that allows you to see if you are working too hard without giving your needs proper attention. That signal may be a tight shoulder or the inability to stop worrying about a problem. Stay aware of this flicker of a signal and when you notice it, use the moment to slow down and actively relax with your work. Time is how you view it. If you can convince yourself that taking some time to slow down is beneficial to your health then you’ll get into the habit of reducing your stress before it takes over.

Create Fun

Creating a fun atmosphere makes the day much more enjoyable. I’ve worked with the type of people who pick you up, those who bring you down, as well as the non emotional contenders. Each one plays his/her role, but the people who pick you up are more fun to work with.

I had a co-worker who played often and worked hard and I loved being around him. After working on a difficult report he would come out of his office and start chatting up the office, letting out pent up energy. He would stop by my desk and talk a little football. He would make a few jokes with Linda then take a few moments to swap a story with the CEO. He tried to include everyone in his fun. This would last about twenty minutes then he would go back to work. It was amazing to see how he picked up the spirits of the whole office. For over an hour afterward we had a little hop in our steps.

You can create some fun at your job too. Let out a few jokes, ask someone what they are doing this weekend, or give another co-worker a compliment. Watch what happens. They will light up, which of course makes you feel good.

Exercise at Work

Getting your heart pumping will send out those feel good chemicals. Just ten minutes of exercise can have effects for hours. It takes you away from the job and stirs up some internal excitement.

I try to take a walk break every morning and afternoon. I love getting out in the fresh air and giving my back and eyes a break from the chair and computer screen. I make this a focused relaxation. My thoughts often get pulled back toward work, so I try to refocus my energy on enjoying each step and the sights that I see. I’m a big fan of trees (who isn’t?). I love how their branches squirm in all kinds of directions, trying to catch the energy from the sun.

Try to use techniques that allow you to get your heart rate going a little bit, while also allowing you to take a break from your work. Both are much needed stress relievers to keep you motivated throughout your day.

You Have All the Tools

Your ability to enjoy your job is really up to you. It’s all about how you choose to interact with the people, tasks, and your thoughts. If you choose to be unhappy at work then you must take some of the blame. If your boss is a tyrant then there isn’t much you can do except to exercise your freedom and find a new job. You have the ability to change the world. You have to let go of your fears and make it happen. That’s why you made it this far in this article. You’re ready to optimize your working life.

You have the power to create your dream career. The only way this will happen is if you listen to your needs. Once you know what will make you happy you must be creative and tenacious in making it happen. I still get down on myself, but I don’t let it last long. I make new plans and take action.

When you keep moving toward the things that excite you, your happiness will come. I promise.


Hey, if you liked this article I think you’ll love these:


Image courtesy of happykatie

15 thoughts on “How to Be Happy at Work – Right Now!”

  1. Pingback: Posts about Ebooks as of January 18, 2009 | The Lessnau Lounge

  2. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet

    Hi Karl

    Thank you for helping us with these tips!
    Prevention is better than cure! There are tools for dealing with the difficulties at work (and they are always useful), but to have no or very few difficulties in the first place is first prize!


  3. Hi Karl,
    I can completely relate to the idea of one-minute breaks. I’ll do that too – a cup of tea in the afternoon, or a glass of water. It’s a break, yet it’s quick. And it is pretty amazing how much that one minute can do for the next 30-60 minutes!

    This are all great ways to make work be a place that brings some joy into your life. And with that happening, life and work don’t see too bad at all!

  4. I can see you never worked in Hollyweird.
    I don’t know why they call it the entertainment industry, they should call it the entertainment asylum!
    But leaving the humor aside: Great post!
    I am already practicing some of your tips I just wish my colleagues would do too 🙂
    Keep up the good work!
    Be loved!

  5. Hi Karl – I agree, showing or receiving words of appreciation mean a lot – often more than money. What I do in our business is to tell the employees how my husband told me they are doing a great job. Knowing “the boss” is telling me about their performance puts a smile on their face.

    I love your K-Mart story. Employees like the older woman can often be an inspiration for other to step up. Kudos to her for not letting the others drag her down.

  6. Hi Karl: A lot of people feel completely powerless to change their situation at work, but the things you suggest here are great ways to alleviate stress, have more fun, and be more productive. At the end of the day the best thing to do is look for work you love, but while you’re getting there you might as well try to make the best of a not-so-stellar situation. All of the suggestions you make here are excellent.

  7. Hi Karl,

    I like what you said about being in control. Once you have that you already feel better about work. And your tips for getting back in control are actsions we can all do anytime, so again those actions are within our control. A lot of life and work actually is. Great job in pointing this out!

  8. Hi Karl, great tips here.
    Oftentimes, I forget about leisure break, whereas it is necessary as you said above. It looks like a little thing indeed, but it can bring a big impact.
    Thank for reminding, Karl. I’ll take a break after this and enjoy a cup of coffee. 🙂

  9. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    “If you don’t feel satisfied with your productivity, try breaking the rules a little and do a job that isn’t assigned to you.”

    Independent action demonstrates a worth beyond your pay scale. Taking such initiative is one thing that could make employment interesting. This is sound advice.

  10. Hi Lance, how I love a good cup of tea.

    Hi Juliet, we all have work happiness tools. We just have to use them on a regular basis.

    Hi Buddha, never worked in Hollyweird, but maybe some day. Let me know how your practice progresses.

    Hi Barbara, that’s a great way to pass on a compliment to the employees.

    Hi Marelisa, stress can wreck any day. The more we can keep it at bay the better we feel.

    Hi Daphne, we need to create freedom. The more control we have over our life at work the better it becomes.

    Hi Arswino, leisure breaks are a must when I work. I would go crazy without them.

    Hi Tom, taking a little initiative is a great way to push outside the comfort zone and increase creativity.

  11. When I worked in the corporate world I did a lot of those things – I was the one walking around chatting it up having a good time. Sometimes too good of a time! But it does help if even for a minute or two.
    And yes, we have choices, that’s why I finally gave up on corporate to start my own business!

  12. Pingback: Andy Parkinson’s World » Blog Archive » 1/22/09: Top Career Posts this Week

  13. I like what you were saying about leisure breaks and tea.

    Besides the healthy benefits of tea, prepping tea at work can be as quick as dunking a teabag into water, or as meditative as preparing a small pot of loose tea in 3 minutes. Try varying your tea ritual depending on stress and need for speed/relaxation.


  14. Trina Colon @ nv henderson foreclosure

    It all comes down to it that loving your work is the most important thing but at least we know most people are working not because they like the job but because they need it we must admit if the salary is high even if we don’t really like to perform the job we would be forced to do it because we need it simple as that.

  15. Pay on Results SEO

    One thing is certain, how to be happy at work, well, pay attention to it, dont just do it because you are told to do so. Loving what you do is a fullfilment not just by your company but also to yourself.

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