What to do if you're miserable at work, according to a happiness expert

Gretchen Rubin: The key to your happiness depends on these 2 things
Gretchen Rubin: The key to your happiness depends on these 2 things

If you find yourself unhappy, stressed or miserable at your office, you are not alone.

While more than half of American workers say they don't feel connected or fulfilled at their jobs, according to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace, 16 percent say they are flat out miserable. This consequently negates the work and effort of the most engaged employees.

Unfortunately, your own unhappiness at work is taking a toll on both your professional and personal career.

"Our families and friends suffer when we are disengaged, dissatisfied and unfulfilled," writes Fortune 500 company leadership advisor Annie McKee in her latest book, "How To Be Happy At Work."

McKee teaches leadership and emotional intelligence to master's and doctoral candidates at the University of Pennsylvania and has spent years researching how feelings, moods and actions impact people's experiences and success at work.

When it comes to your most stressful days at work, where you fear your manager or become upset with your colleagues, you most likely shut down. You become resentful, cynical and lose your creative spark and energy.

"The situation is unacceptable. Most of us work more than eight hours a day," McKee writes. "That means that if we are unhappy at work, we are miserable from more than a third of our lives."

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When you work in an environment where you constantly face these destructive emotions, they "interfere with reasoning, adaptability and resilience," McKee says, rendering you distracted and ineffective.

Furthermore, the longer this negative feeling goes unchecked, McKee argues that "we slip into a state where we can't seem to find our way back to happiness and we're not as effective as we once were."

And even if they are not saying so, your employer also feels the pain of your happiness: Companies with happy and engaged employees outperform their competition by 20 percent, McKee writes.

As much as you may try to leave your feelings at the office, McKee points out that "emotions are contagious."

"Our feelings have an impact on how others feel and the extent to which their brains work," she writes.

Although "slow-burning stress, anger and other negative emotions can literally kill us," as McKee underscores, there are ways to improve your happiness at work.

"When our work has meaning, when we see an enticing vision of the future and when we have strong, warm relationships, we are emotionally, intellectually and physically equipped to do our best," McKee writes.

Here are three recommendations from McKee you can follow to improve your happiness and wellbeing at work.

Figure out what being happy at work would look like for you

McKee defines happiness as "deep and abiding enjoyment of daily activities fueled by Passion for a meaningful purpose, a hopeful view of the future and true friendships."

She adds that happiness isn't simply about feeling good in isolated moments, but ongoing experiences of joy, hope, excitement, empathy, altruism and overall well-being, among other attitudes and behaviors.

"I stand firmly in the belief that happiness is possible for everyone happiness is a human right," McKee writes.

Seek your sense of purpose

Whether you feel like your job is your calling or it's just a way to make ends meet, having your sense of purpose has many benefits.

"When we are driven by a sense of purpose, when we feel optimistic and enjoy being with our colleagues, we're better able to access or knowledge, experience and emotional intelligence," McKee writes.

Our brains work better when we feel good, she adds.

"We are more open to new ideas and can more easily tap into her intuition. We're able to process information more quickly and more thoroughly, be creative and get along with people who are different from ourselves," according to McKee.

Get rid of pessimism

Being a downer at work places a limit not only on what you can do but also what your entire team can achieve as a unit.

"Just as optimism fuels the and energy needed to accomplish goals, pessimism causes us to give up before we even try," McKee writes.

To counter any optimism, McKee recommends taking time at the end of your day to reflect on what went well.

'When you catch yourself thinking about all the things you didn't get done or that didn't go well thank instead about what you learned, the positive impact you had on others and something you're proud of," she says.

If your days don't seem to be going well, you can also think back to a different time when you did feel optimistic about the future.

"Think about strengths you use at work, reflect on aspects of your mind, body, heart and spirit that are the most important to you and think about how they have supported you get getting your goals," McKee writes.

She adds: "Positive emotions and a state of mind characterized by hope and compassion create a resonant climate, an environment where everyone can be fulfilled and effective too."

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