Two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh both painted in 1890–“Almond Branches in Bloom” and “At Eternity’s Gate”. Which one makes you happy?!
Ever notice how being around negative people — a.k.a. “psychic vampires” — can bring you down? We’ve all experienced a colleague who comes to the water cooler carrying the bad news about who got fired recently, or dumps all the venom she feels for the boss on you. Being around negativity can really bring us down.
The good news? It’s now been scientifically proven that happiness is contagious. That’s right: Research compiled by the Harvard Medical School and the University of California at San Diego proves that our moods are directly affected by the people we hang out with, and even by the people they hang out with. The study demonstrated that our social networks (family, friends, neighbors, professional colleagues) influence us greatly whether we realize it or not.
Like a virus, happiness can spread from person to person with direct contact. The flip side, of course, is that sadness and negativity spread in the same manner. However, the research proved that sorrow did not spread as efficiently and completely as happiness did, which is good reason to be cheerful (and pass it on).
How can you do that if you’re unhappy with your life and career? First, rule out clinical depression.
If you’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, disinterested in anything, sleeping too much or not sleeping at all, these symptoms indicate that a visit to your doctor is in order. If you simply hate where you work, there is something you can do; you can choose happiness. That’s right: Happiness is a choice. We can set up healthy boundaries, adopt an infectious upbeat attitude, and work toward changing our career direction to match our goals.
• Surround yourself with happy people. Avoid the office gossip and other toxic people in your life. Spend more time with happy people that you know.
• Pump up your endorphins. Exercise releases happy hormones in your brain. If you’re a couch potato or a desk jockey, no wonder you’re feeling blue. Leave your desk and go for a walk around the block on your break if you can’t get to the gym.
• Stay hydrated. Along with proper diet and nutrition, remember to drink plenty of water. Without it, we get sluggish, and happy people are energetic ones.
• Count sheep. Getting a good night’s sleep is half the battle. With so many of us suffering from sleep disorders, no wonder we’re so grumpy. Lack of sleep causes irritability and lack of focus on the job. If you’re having problems sleeping consult a physician.
• Get clear on what is missing from your current employment and take steps to get what you need. Make lists of the pros and cons of staying with this gig or leaving. Take inventory of what you like about your job and what you don’t. Write down what would make you happier with this job or the next one.
• Take control of your situation. One of the reasons for unhappiness is that we feel we have no control over our situation. But whose life are we living? Speak up. You may not be able to get the boss to agree to everything on your wish list, but with some negotiation you may get some of what you want, you just have to risk asking for it.
Beware: Choosing happiness is contagious. When you choose happiness, you will be influencing others around you to get happy, too. When that happens, you may actually discover that you like where you are after all.