When it comes to the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, occupational wellness is one that many people are surprised to learn about. But our jobs are more than a source of income. You spend several hours a day devoted to your work, and you want to feel empowered and satisfied. According to Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane, "Occupational wellness is the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure in a way that promotes health, a sense of personal satisfaction and is (for most people) financially rewarding."
As with all of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, occupational wellness heavily connects to the other dimensions of wellness, notably emotional wellness. Stress and underappreciation lead to strained occupational wellness, which undoubtedly connects to your emotional wellness. When your occupational health suffers, so does your mood and emotions; when your mood is down, you struggle more.
In reality, we all ride the "Mood Elevator" every day, with our moods and emotions fluctuating wildly. At the bottom of the elevator, we feel angry, hostile, stressed, but we are grateful, wise, creative, and more near the top. At the top of the Mood Elevator, we experience the frame of mind that primes us for optimal occupational health.
How can you ride the Mood Elevator to the top to perform your best and improve your occupational wellness? Read on to find out.
At work, we are not robots. As Co-Author of Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations? Dan Gibson of Fairfield University explains that we are not "isolated emotional islands" and that we bring our entire selves to work, which affect ourselves and those around us¹.
Dan and his co-author's paper published in the Academy of Management explained that employees' emotions, moods, and disposition impacted their decision making, creativity, turnover, teamwork, leadership, and negotiations. Where we are on the Mood Elevator will determine how we think and act and work, directly impacting our occupational wellness.
One theory, the Affective Events Theory (AET), can help explain the connection between emotions, attitudes, and work behaviors. In one study, researchers examined the effect of six powerful emotions in the workplace (fear, joy, love, sadness, anger, and surprise².) Based on the theory, certain work events provoke different emotions in different people. The emotions promote actions that either benefit or impede others at work. As you might imagine, jobs with high levels of negative emotions cause frustration and burnout in employees³.
Poor occupational conditions will also affect how you feel, which creates a cyclical pattern than can be difficult to escape. If you find yourself at the Mood Elevator's bottom, your emotional and occupational health will suffer. Here are some ways to intentionally move up the Mood Elevator:
To adapt to your organization and find fulfillment, you must have a growth mindset. World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. explains the power fo mindset and the benefits of a growth mindset in her book, Mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you believe abilities can develop. It helps you overcome your failures and be more patient and understanding with others in the workplace. Instead of thinking that you or a co-worker are stuck with your current skill set, you can use your growth mindset to empower change and development.
Be mindful of where you are on the Mood Elevator, as it's contagious. How we feel affects how those around us feel as well. According to the article, Emotional Contagion at Work, "leader emotional displays at work relate to various member work attitudes and performance⁴." As a member of your organization, you bring an emotional "shadow" with you. This shadow influences the people around you can significantly affect the overall climate of the workplace. Be aware of your emotional shadow as well as the ones of people around you.
Emotions are often about perspective. It's easy to get upset when you do not see the bigger picture and have a zoned-in view of the world around you. Some of the best ways to maintain your perspective are through humor and gratitude. One recent study examined the link between gratitude and psychological state and found that those who practiced gratitude reported better overall health⁵. The Mayo Clinic discusses how laughter is an incredible medicine for stress, tension, and mood⁶. Make a conscious effort to practice gratitude daily and to keep a good sense of humor.
When our mood is low, and we are upset at work, it's easy to carry that negativity home. Being low on the Mood Elevator makes it harder for us to take care of ourselves as a whole, but the last thing you want is to let your physical wellness drop. The worse your other dimensions of wellness get, the harder it will be to raise your mood and job satisfaction. Exercise is a natural mood booster that is proven to reduce anxiety and depression⁷. Physical activity often connects us with others, offers a distraction, and increases our self-efficacy, critical for wellness.
Additionally, focus on what you eat. A greasy meal is not a cure for a bad mood. Eating a whole-food diet full of vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains helps your mood and energy levels⁸.
Where we are on the Mood Elevator impacts how we perform and enjoy our work. The one key to increasing your occupational wellness is to intentionally lift yourself higher on the Mood Elevator by using the strategies above.
(1) Barsade, SG; Gibson, DE (2007) Why does affect matter in organizations?
(2) Weiss, HM; Cropanzano, R (1996) Affective Events Theory: A theoretical discussion of the structure, causes and consequences of affective experiences at work
(3) University of Minnesota Libraries (January 2017) Organizational Behavior
(4) Bull Schaefer, RA; Palanski, ME (August 2014) Emotional Contagion at Work: An In-Class Experiential Activity
(5) Wong, YJ; Owen, J; Gabana, NT; Brown, JW; McInnis, S; Toth, P; Gilman, L (2018) Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial
(6) Mayo Clinic (April 2019) Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke
(7) Sharma, A; Madaan, V; Petty, FD (2006) Exercise for mental health
(8) Selhub, E (November 2015) Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food