Happier Jump-Starts: Tips for Indulging All 5 Senses at Work

happier-jump-starts-081714Everyone knows there’s all kinds of benefits to making your workspace one in which you feel comfortable—it impacts everything from mood to productivity—but so often, we don’t really pay it the attention it deserves. Or if we do, we attend to our visual sense (“There! I put up a picture of my family!”) and neglect everything else. We use all five senses every day; make your work environment one that makes you happy in every sense! (P.S., I work at a desk and know not everyone does, but I think all of the following tips can be modified for just about any environment, including for those whose work means staying home with the kids.)

Sight

Good news: sight is the sense we’re most likely to address when thinking about what we need to make our environment happier. So you’ve already got pictures of loved ones, maybe a pop of your favorite color here and there, a sentimental item that reminds you of a fabulous past vacation or something. That’s a great start! Now consider whether you have something in your immediate line of sight in your workspace that makes you laugh. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, either, but something that triggers humor will make you happier and help keep you grounded during stress, too. For me, one year when my daughter and I were making vision boards and cutting up magazines, as a joke she handed me a scrap that says “It’s like someone put a hot frying pan on my face.” It still makes me laugh (what?), and I have it on the bottom corner of my cork board for comic relief as needed. (Sometimes I look at it during conference calls.)

Hearing

If you listen to music throughout your workday, chances are good you already know how much sound affects you throughout the day. If you find music distracting, there are still ways to adjust your background noise to amp up your mood. I have a “soothing sounds” app on my phone I sometimes use during times of stress, and a playlist especially for my office. Because I work from home, I’m also lucky in that I don’t have to filter out a bunch of coworker noise, but if you work in a busy office or other noisy environment, invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones (even if all you want to listen to is ocean waves). If you work where wearing headphones isn’t compatible with your job—say, if you’re a teacher—consider what sort of sounds appeal to you and how you can integrate them. My single best office investment may be the set of wind chimes right outside my window. (And if that appeals but you can’t have actual chimes, there’s multiple wind chime apps out there.) Maybe you get one of those little perpetual fountains, or something else. Give it some thought.

Taste

I feel very strongly that every desk should have a chocolate drawer, but I take my treats very seriously. Treat yourself every day at work in some small way, whether it’s the aforementioned chocolate stash or your favorite beverage that you only ever have on the job, and you’ll soon come to associate work with happy taste buds. It really will make you happier to be there.

Smell

Modern technology has given us an assortment of ways to bring just about every scent imaginable into our homes, cars, even clothes. You have to be a bit judicious with this one—many people are sensitive to perfumes and heavy scents, you and don’t want to impinge upon your coworkers—but consider bringing a favorite scent into your workspace. Even a spritz of your beloved’s cologne on a scrap of paper you can slip out of your pocket, or taking a whiff of your lunch or a favorite old book (really!) can change your mood.

Touch

Most of us have no problem seeking out a more comfortable chair or a more ergonomic keyboard, if needed, but does it occur to you to wear something soft on a stressful day? What sorts of tactile sensations work for you may be something you’ll need to explore—a stressball on your desk may be a good idea, but maybe miniature Zen garden with sand you can rake is more your thing—but don’t neglect this last sense figuring it doesn’t matter. For me, the hands-down winning benefit of the home office is that I can pick up one of my dogs for a snuggle as needed. I know that’s a luxury most of us don’t have, but a favorite smooth river rock on your desk or velvet scarf…? You’ll figure out what makes you feel good.

Have a great week, and here’s to indulging all your senses at work!

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