3 habits that deteriorate your mood at work – and the hacks to counteract them.

by Scott Crabtree

We can all easily list external factors that will take the joy out of work. Unrealistic deadlines, a constantly negative team member, or construction noise are all obviously destructive to a good mood.

Chances are, we each have our own habits that put us in a bad mood – and these internal factors are often harder to pinpoint. Fortunately, scientific studies have identified several of them for us. I’d like to share three mood-diminishing habits with you, so you can be more aware and counteract when you notice them. Science has some suggestions on how to do that, too.

1. Picking fights when hungry or tired.

What? When we are mentally and/or physically exhausted we are more likely to pick petty fights. The same is true for times when our blood sugar is low. Without much consideration, we might send a nasty email or leave a voicemail that comes out more aggressive than we intended.

Now what? Ideally, we’d of course always be well rested and nourished. When that is just not in the cards, take just one minute for a mental scan. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and notice how you feel. This can bring your prefrontal cortex online, help you become aware of your tiredness or hunger, and then proceed with caution until you can reboot.

2. Focusing on weaknesses.

What? When we put time and energy into weaknesses, we end up doing less work of lower quality and enjoy it less. This applies in performance reviews, too – we sometimes spend a lot of time talking about what we and others are NOT good at, and then put time and attention into trying to fix those weaknesses.

Now what? Leverage your strengths and the strengths of your team instead. In many organizations, most weaknesses can be made irrelevant through the right assignments and partnering with others. Instead of pointing out weaknesses when you give feedback, encourage the development of underused strengths.

3. Thinking in a rut.

What? Ruminating. Perseverating. Analyzing until you are paralyzed. Thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Science suggests that those of us who think in repetitive loops often end up very unhappy.

Now what? Notice – and stop! When you find yourself thinking similar thoughts again and again, stop. Get some exercise, meditate, or talk with a friend to help you break out of the rut and discover a new perspective.

What other habits do you or others have that reduce happiness at work?

Photo by Rachelle Casipit on Flickr.