When Emily Peck was starting up her business she realized how rushed her days were. Like most of us, she spent her time rushing from one task to the next, trying to accomplish more than she possibly could. This led her to begin researching solutions, and after reading hundreds of readings and interviews, she devised a personal list to boost happiness and minimize the stress of our daily rush. Since then she has shared these tips with other employees and businesses, and published on her technique. People who’ve adopted Pech’s strategies say they are more fulfilled, calmer and happier during the average workday.
Interestingly, the shift all starts with your morning: instead of waking up on the wrong side of the proverbial bed, Peck recommends that we start with calm positivity. Whether you’re an early riser who relishes those early hours of the day, or a night owl who dreads the sound of the alarm, these six morning habits will provide a foundation for a happier and more productive workday.
#1: Get Up Earlier
Management expert Ken Blanchard has been advocating a simple technique for cultivating presence and calmness during the day. His simple advice is this: start your day slowly.
If you set the alarm just an hour earlier, you can begin your day at a more measured and relaxed pace, and have time to think about what you need to do and plan out your day. Modifying your wake up time can actually have a substantial effect on your happiness and productivity. Taking a little extra time in the morning to get ready for the day leaves you with enough time to reflect on what you’d like to accomplish that day while in a calm and steady state of mind.
#2: Use Breathing Exercises
Research has conclusively shown that focusing on your increases concentration, lowers stress and decreases blood pressure. If you begin the day with some simple breathing exercises, you will feel centered and ready for a productive day. One example is what meditation instructors often call “deep belly breaths,” which involve taking in a deep breath through the nose, filling your stomach, and then slowly releasing the breath through your mouth. Some people like to count while they breathe (going up to 4 as they inhale, then holding their breathe for 5 seconds, and finally and exhaling for 6 seconds). These are just two of many breathing exercises that help people feel calm.
Smiling has dramatic effects on both you and those around you. To feel happier, change the mood of your situation starting with yourself. Smile while in proximity to others and watch them respond to your actions with smiles of their own.
According to Ron Gutman, founder of HealthTap, when a person smiles, it’s actually difficult for others to frown, since the control we have over our facial muscles becomes suppressed. Studies conducted back in 1988 demonstrated that even false smiles still produced beneficial effects. Starting your day by smiling will put you on an immediate track to a better frame of mind.
#4: Thank Somebody
Living in a state of gratitude is fundamental to happiness. By starting off the day in a positive frame of mind and recognizing others for how they’ve helped you, your gratitude will make you and the other person happier.
Peck’s office has implemented this principle in her office through the following exercise: after employees finish their meetings, they provide an opportunity for each participant to openly thank someone in the room or elsewhere. This encourages everyone to scan their surroundings for positive signals, ultimately creating a happier environment.
#5: Take a Break Every 90 Minutes
When workers sit for hours on end in front of a computer screen (or in a meeting or doing whatever), they gradually become lost in thought and become unproductive. One way to minimize this unproductive state is to take breaks every 90 minutes. Even a quick walk around the office will do the trick – as long as it’s something that allows you to disconnect for a few minutes and get your creativity flowing again.
One might think that employers would frown on this practice since it is taking people away from their work while they are still on the clock. But in fact, many managers are embracing the break-every-90-minute regimen, having seen it’s usefulness in action. At Peck’s company, everyone is encouraged to stop every hour and a half to take a stroll, grab some coffee or play a quick match of foosball. As a result, Peck says that productivity and happiness increase immediately following these breaks, an even continues throughout the day. Taking intermittent work breaks, in other words, is the very opposite of “wasting time.”
#6: Do Something for Others
Offering help to someone else is a great way to start your day in a positive direction. See if you can provide some assistance to someone who needs it. By voluntarily helping others, you strengthen social connections that result in multiple benefits – even releasing oxytocin, a hormone that helps us bond with each other and deal with stress. So you’re not just helping someone else — you’re spreading happiness and positivity more broadly, including to yourself.
Most workplaces, of course, are made up of team of diverse and unique individuals. Collaboration is the glue that creates a sense of connectedness, making work teams strong and more effective. In Peck’s office, employees who offer help to others are publicly acknowledged and thanked in turn in their weekly meetings, encouraging others to give back as well.