Try this to be happier at work

I can't guarantee this technique will benefit everyone, but I've found it leads to happier and more productive work days. Try this during your next morning commute:

  1. Put away distractions.
  2. Focus on a specific sight or sound in your environment.
  3. Your mind will wander often. Don't beat yourself up about it. Label the thought and gently return to focusing.

Here are some labels I find useful:

  1. Planning: Thinking about what I want to accomplish
  2. Fantasizing: What if I achieved x, y or z?
  3. Comparing: Comparing my goals, successes and failures to those of others

This activity is nice because it fits into your schedule. You don't have to make time for it. Doing this for about 5 months, I've noticed a few things:

  1. It's a diagnostic tool, not a panacea. Morning mindfulness won't solve all your problems, but it may increase your awareness of unpleasant feelings such as fatigue or stress.
  2. Comparisons cause unhappiness. Observing thought patterns, many people find that they constantly compare their success, intelligence and appearance to that of their peers. You can cut yourself a break by pinpointing unnecessary comparisons.
  3. No two moments are the same. During the rare moments when I can stay completely focused on my environment, whatever I'm doing feels unique. An everyday bus ride becomes a more interesting experience because I notice new details.

If you decide to try this, let me know how it goes! I recommend committing to it for at least 2 weeks because it's hard at first and it takes time for the benefits to emerge. For more on this topic, check out this talk on the science of mindfulness.