According to many bold headlines today, the pandemic’s disruption is here to stay. “COVID-19 isn’t going away. But now we know how to live with it” writes a team from Northeastern University. Even though we’ve been living this pandemic for two years, it still seems unfathomable that it’s become our new normal.
And yet, like the above story suggests, go on we must.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t find happiness at work in the meantime. If anything, we need to keep up the practices that give us the necessary fulfillment to maintain our resilience.
I’ve been CEO to my form-builder company for more than 15 years, and during this time we’ve had many ups and downs (though probably nothing quite as disrupting as this ongoing pandemic crisis), and it’s taught my team a thing or two about finding ways to be happy amid upheaval. Here are four strategies that have helped us deal with chronic uncertainty.
Allow yourself to try new things
“Focusing on the negative aspects of the current situation is not going to make you feel calmer,” Souzan Swift, a licensed clinical psychologist, shares with CNBC.
I’ve found that one of my greatest motivators comes down to experimenting and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.
Volunteering for new projects or doing work that engages you more is one of the best ways to ramp up your adrenaline to stave off unhappiness. Why? Because it gives you that forward momentum and makes you feel unstuck. Ultimately, our brains and bodies work best when we’re continually challenging ourselves and learning something new.
Connect with people as much you can
Anxiety and isolation are among the biggest impediments toward feeling content. According to the 2021 World Happiness Report, “Building meaningful relationships with co-workers, especially management, is critical to job and life satisfaction.”
I couldn’t agree more. When I was hospitalized because of COVID-19 in 2020, I was given a new outlook on life that reaffirmed this essential truth: Our relationships and connections are everything. And I’m not just referring to our family and friends, either. I received an amazing outpouring of support from my team and employees while I was in the hospital—it’s something I’ll never forget and it makes me even more grateful to have created and fostered such a thoughtful work culture. Because I believe that having solid social connections maintains our levels of happiness, even as other aspects of our lives may be struggling.
Building and sustaining social capital is key for our well-being at work and outside of it as well. This involves having positive interactions with co-workers and supervisors that’s both helpful and supportive. One way that I cultivate healthy bonds is by having one-on-one lunches with a different team member each day. I’m able to share quality time with them and learn more about who they are outside of the office. While it can feel awkward to engage with co-workers more, taking time to socialize and get more personal at work is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Find comfort in nature rather than your screen
Some of my very first memories involve picking olives alongside my family in my hometown of Turkey. Spending time out in nature has always been a big influence in my life—it’s one of the reasons I make it a point to get outdoors as often as I can. Whether that means taking a quick hike near my neighborhood or taking time to garden each day, getting outside makes a huge difference in my mood.
We made a lot of resolutions for the new year, but one that may have been overlooked was finding more comfort in nature rather than relying merely on our screens.
In writing for The American Psychological Association, Kirsten Weir notes that, “Our increasing reliance on technology, combined with a global trend toward urban living, means many of us are spending ever less time outdoors—even as scientists compile evidence of the value of getting out into the natural world.”
I know that staying connected online via social media is comforting during chaotic times—and I’m not suggesting we do away with that (I am a tech nerd, after all), but I propose we balance out our time between staring at our screens while also the nurturing the benefits of being outdoors.
“From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits,” writes Weir, “including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.” All the more reason to ditch your phone and go outside—even for 30 minutes each day.
Happiness is half of the picture
When we seek happiness for its own sake, our focus becomes too narrow. A state of contentment isn’t just about feeling better at work—after all, feeling happy can be a fleeting moment, a yummy snack at best. The other side to achieving happiness is finding a sense of meaning.
Meaningfulness, on the other hand, is like the main course that fills you up. Most of us are pursuing happiness, but having a sense of purpose and a why are what sustains us in the long run. As this pandemic has proven to us already, we’ll have plenty of ups and downs throughout the year, so feeling good should come from an intrinsic motivation capable of withstanding these changing tides.
When it comes to meaning in both our personal and professional lives, think of this: Which activities align most with your values? What is your big-picture vision? What are the experiences that fulfill you the most? It’s in those answers that you’ll find something even more satisfying than happiness: a true calling and a sense of belonging.
Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, an online form builder.