Being happy is an end in itself. But it turns out that a good mood is just the beginning: Decades of positive psychology research have shown that happy people are more likely to live longer, have more satisfying relationships and marriages, and raise happier children. They’re also more likely to achieve their professional goals. Although it was long thought that a good job, promotions and raises were precursors for happiness, the opposite is actually true.
In their landmark study, “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” positive psychology pioneers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., and Ed Diener, Ph.D., answered their own question: Yes, positive well-being and mood leads to greater work performance, productivity and success. But how do you harness the energy of your good mood when work seems to squash it with stress and pressure?
We put this tip first, devoid of any clever language, because exercise is the single best intervention for improving mood (outside of professional therapy if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety). Working out releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that can have an immediate, uplifting effect. But the benefits of exercise go far beyond that in-the-moment high. Loads of research has found that even moderate daily exercise boosts creativity, focus, memory and motivation.
Not sold yet? How about this fact: Regular exercise can also improve IQ. A 2013 study out of Sweden followed more than 1 million men between the ages of 15 and 54. Young men who improved their physical fitness levels between the ages of 15 and 18 also improved their IQs, and physical fitness at all ages was associated with higher levels of education and socioeconomic status.
Don’t wait for your office culture to change.
You might have an awful employer who does not value his or her team’s well-being. Your office as a whole might be a negative place where blame, guilt and one-upmanship are the names of the game. You have a right to complain about such a toxic culture. After all, it’s harder to be in a positive mood and do good work when everyone around you seems to be encouraging the opposite. Ultimately, though, “it is every employee’s responsibility to practice enough self-care to be well enough to do a great job at work,” says Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and adjunct professor of psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City.
Don’t wait around for your boss to buy an office pingpong table or offer Summer Fridays. Make time for yourself and your friends and family. Take a coffee break with a work friend. Do a five-minute meditation at your desk. Research your next family vacation.
A 2011 study from Ohio State University found that an employee’s morning mood affects his or her disposition—and performance—for the entire workday. A sunny, happy morning primes us for an overall bright day, the researchers say, simply by changing how we perceive the work on tap for the afternoon. Study participants who experienced grumpier mornings were 10 percent less productive than those who had positive ones. What does a good morning look like to you? Listening to music? Dancing in the shower? A pre-breakfast run in the park? Whatever it takes, try to add at least one fun element to your morning routine.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.