Mental health

Want to be happy? Ultimately it’s your job satisfaction that matters the most

Here's eight ways to make your nine-to-five better

Forget family, relationships or good health. The strongest indicator for men’s happiness and mental wellbeing is whether they’re happy at work, and whether they feel valued in the workplace by their colleagues and employers. 

This is according to the 2018 Harry’s Masculinity Report, in which the grooming brand surveyed 5,000 men ages 18-95 across the US. The results correlate with Harry’s 2017 study of 2,000 men in the UK, which also found that happiness at work has the greatest effect on men’s wellbeing: ‘Everything else – contentment at home, in relationships and friendships – flows down from men being satisfied at work,’ confirms the report. 

It makes sense. The office is where you spend most of your time after all, with the average full-time British worker clocking up 37.2 working hours a week in the UK. Being happy at work, in the space that you have to spend most of your time in, is going to have a deep impact on your overall wellbeing and mental health. And this is especially true for men, who for centuries have been defined by their ability to provide and be the breadwinners, and who have often built their sense of identity around their work.

But in an age when diagnoses of anxiety and depression are at an all time high, finding that day-to-day job satisfaction can be difficult. Dr Josh Cullimore of Bluecrest Health Screening has seen an increase in work-related stress and mental illness in his work as a GP, something which he puts down to an increase in job insecurity, and economic uncertainty due to Brexit. However, despite these worries, there are still ways to boost your happiness at work. Here are his eight tips for making sure your nine-to-five are some of the best hours of your day.

How to be happy at work

1. Avoid presenteeism

Thinking you always have to appear to be working is a remnant of the kind of toxic work culture that dominated the 20th and early 21st century. ‘It’s really important that when you leave your work for the day you turn off your phone and your emails,’ says Dr Cullimore. ‘Try not to take your work home with you and always take your lunch break, preferably away from your desk.’ He also emphasises the important role employers play in changing the culture of presenteeism, so that workers are judged on their output and performance, rather than hours worked. 

2. Build a community in the workplace

Feeling like you’re part of a community has a strong impact on your happiness levels; studies have shown it can reduce the risk of depression, lower the risk of heart disease and increase how long you live. ‘Socialise with colleagues when possible,’ advises Dr Cullimore. ‘If people think they’re part of a strong team with good connections that can help with overall happiness levels. Build a community in the workplace.’ 

3. Make sure your job is the right one for you

When was the last time you checked the career you chose at 21 is still what you want to do today? As work forms such a large part of your life it’s essential that how you spent your nine-to-five is as fulfilling as possible. ‘It’s important to feel like you’re doing something worthwhile,’ emphasises Dr Cullimore. ‘And that you’re in the right job, and that you’re valued.’

4. Move more

Humans were never meant to sit at a desk for eight hours or more a day. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as negatively affecting your mental health. ‘Exercise can really help when it comes to happiness at work,’ says Dr Cullimore. ‘Get away from your desk regularly, even if it’s only for ten minutes or fifteen minutes – I’m a big fan of walking meetings.’ But don’t force yourself to the gym every morning if you really hate it. ‘The most important thing is doing something you enjoy. If you hate every minute of it you’re not going to stick to it, so have fun with what you’re doing.’

5. Look after your mind

Practising mindfulness is key to maintaining happiness at work, advises Dr Cullimore. Being in touch with how you feel and what you think are the central tenets of this, and evidence shows it can make you more relaxed and creative, while also being less affected by stress. Part of this could involve meditation which, even if practiced only a few minutes a day, has been shown to elevate happiness levels. ‘And if you can do that with colleagues, that’s even better,’ explains the good doctor.

6. Eat right

Allowing yourself a healthy, plant-based diet is good for two reasons. ‘It’s good for the head but will also help you maintain your optimum, healthy weight,’ says Dr Cullimore. The doctor advises sticking to meals stuffed full of fresh fruit and veg, as well as nuts and seeds, and whole grains that are full of fibre – which has been proven to positively impact mental health through the gut.

7. Practice gratitude

‘It’s easy to get into a negative way of thinking, and reminding yourself of the things you’re grateful for can really make a difference to your overall happiness,’ says Dr Cullimore. This could be part of mindfulness, or just making a list of the top three things that you’re grateful for every day.

8. Get a life

Being happy in work also means being satisfied with your life outside work. To achieve this, Dr Cullimore advises making sure your spare time is packed with fulfilling things. ‘Fill your evenings and weekends with exciting things that are going to boost you in other ways,’ he says. ‘Testing yourself and going out of your comfort zone can be really good for your mental health.’