Why does this even matter to businesses? It’s important to understand happiness as it relates to productivity, both personally and professionally. For obvious reasons, happy people live longer and better than those of us who don’t have this trait. A happy individual is healthier than their unhappy counterparts. This is simply because happy people do not spend a lot of time with their adrenal systems activated.
Scientifically, the adrenal system is the system that produces cortisol, which is the hormone that we use to respond to stress. A chronic amount of this hormone in our systems can mean that we get sick very easily and stay sick longer. This relates very closely to the business world. In business, sick employees are far less productive than healthy ones. Keeping your employees happy means keeping them healthy and productive. How do we attain this level of happiness in our companies?
Make it easy to get out and exercise
The exercise craze has hit offices, and for good reason. Exercise is closely correlated with elevation in mood. The American Psychological Association published an article discussing the mood benefits of exercise. They found that an immediate mood lift happens in individuals who exercise. These individuals usually experience this benefit within 5 minutes of an exercise session.
Not only are there immediate benefits, but those who exercise regularly are less likely to develop long-term depression. Depression and anxiety have both been shown to receive relief from regular exercise. Exercise functions as a sort of exposure therapy for the chronically anxious individual, providing exposure to the results of their fear impulses without any danger being present. You can experience all these benefits by simply exercising regularly. Providing a little bit of office yoga may go a long way. To maximize this benefit, schedule regular intervals of time where you’re up and moving around the office, and set these breaks for everyone in the office if possible.
Play a little music in the office
This may seem a little simplistic. Interestingly, there have been studies conducted about music and levels of happiness, and those who consumed more music were found to be increasingly happy. Those individuals who consumed music and were happier had a level of attachment to the music that was critical. The studies showed that those who danced or engaged otherwise with the music experienced the greatest benefit of the influence of the music. However, engaging with the music didn’t seem to be enough. Those who received the greatest benefit also listened to music in the presence of others.
The best way to use these benefits is to get the whole office involved. Schedule some time during the day where everyone can get up from their desks, listen to music, and dance if they want. Create a safe space where simply engaging with the music and engaging with your surroundings is the goal. The greatest benefit that your coworkers can receive is being engaged with their surroundings at least once a day.
Sponsor some charity work
Studies show that those who regularly engage in volunteer work report higher happiness levels. People do report these feelings, but researchers can also see the results of these feelings using fMRI technology. On fMRI scans, the same regions that light up when we are seeing benefits of cravings are also lit up when we give. Charitable donations provide a sense of altruism that increases happiness levels.
To take advantage of these benefits, schedule some time where your office can go and volunteer. Set up a donation drive for your local food bank. Spend some time cleaning and cuddling at your local animal shelter. Find a local organization that works with teachers and provide donations of materials or cash to these organizations. Spend some time serving at a soup kitchen. All these volunteer opportunities take just a little time out of your day and generate an instant upswing in mood. To find some volunteer opportunities for your team, visit volunteermatch.org.
Give happiness meditation a try
Mindfulness training has taken hold in popular culture. It seems that we hear about meditation every other minute in this growing world, for good reason. Mindfulness is basically a way that we can take stock of what is going on in our body and mind. The thing is, by understanding what we’re seeing and why, we are entering a state of being. What we have found is that when you are absorbed in nothing but the stress of everyday life, your stress and anxiety systems are constantly online, making it almost impossible for you to wind down. This is where mindfulness excels.
Mindfulness carries with it a large set of benefits that can be seen very quickly after beginning. Because we are taking those fear and anxiety systems offline, we are easing the amount of cortisol and other stress hormones in our blood. This reduces the general effect of stress and also reduces the length of illness in most of us. Those benefits that we were talking about earlier with exercise are very much in play with mindfulness, and getting started is very easy. The Huffington Post published some recommendations to get started in this practice.
If you want to set this up in your office, you have a few options. Mindfulness meditation does not take a lot of space, nor time. Provide mental health breaks for your employees and set up a small space with cushions and soft lighting (I recommend a Himalayan Salt lamp for diffused light). Keep the room as quiet as possible, with a little bit of background music. Your employees can start with a guided meditation, or maybe an app on their smartphones that will help guide them through a meditation. Many of these are less than 5 minutes of time and provide a much needed mental rest. Believe me, your employees will thank you for it.
Get some sleep
This one is not really for the employers out there, but more for those like myself. Get some quality sleep. I, myself, have issues with getting to sleep at night and staying asleep. A little bit of that meditation room helps me. I have a Himalayan Salt lamp on my bedside table and will usually read a book before bedtime. Keep the television out of the bedroom, and keep the laptops off. Sleep hygiene is vitally important to your quality of sleep. Studies have shown that those who sleep with a higher quality sleep are generally healthier than those who don’t, so getting your rest at night is super important.
Wrapping it up
All these benefits of happiness are realistic for those who work in your company. Healthy employees are happy and productive employees. Not only will you see these benefits, but your employees will see these benefits and improve their work-life balance because of it. Providing the tools to take advantage of these benefits will help your company’s culture stand the test of time.