Happy Nurse: 10 Ways to Increase Your Happiness Today

According to the World Happiness Report, happiness levels in the U.S. are dropping. Our society is full of stressed out people. Nurses have a challenging job, so finding ways to boost your happiness is important. Discover 10 easy ways to be happy today.

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  • Workforce Development Columnist
    Specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement. Has 25 years experience.
Happy Nurse: 10 Ways to Increase Your Happiness Today

You probably know happiness when you feel it. As a nurse, you may feel those positive emotions that come with a deeper purpose when an acutely ill patient turns the corner toward better outcomes or a patient living with cancer finds out they are in remission. You also feel happiness in everyday life when you reach goals, spend time with loved ones, or enjoy a nice dinner with friends. However, happiness isn't something that comes easy for everyone.

According to the World Happiness Report, the United States ranks nineteenth in the most satisfied countries in the world, with Finland, Denmark, and Iceland ranking in the top five. American adults have been experiencing a decrease in happiness since 2000 and reporting more thoughts of suicide, depression, and acts of self-harm since 2010.

These statistics are scary. Nurses can experience high levels of stress-related to work environments, short-staffing, and the emotional aspects of working with ill and injured individuals each day. Combine your work with the statistics about happiness in the U.S., and you can see why it's critical to take your happiness serious and plan out ways to increase your happiness quotient daily. Here are ten ways you can increase your happiness today.

Create Happiness Goals

OK, you might think this sounds silly, but we live in a country where happiness is dying. So, having a goal to meet up with friends once a week for happy hour or planning a date with your partner is good practice.

Find a Hobby

Finding a hobby can be challenging. If you are looking for a hobby, think about what you loved to do as a child. Did you enjoy painting or crafts? If so, this might be an excellent place to start. If getting started on your own feels like a daunting task, find a class to take that can get you started with the basics.

Use Your Vacation Time

A recent report revealed that a record 768 million vacation days went unused in the U.S. in 2018. This is an increase of 9% from 2017 and adds up to billions of dollars lost in benefits. Dedicated nurses can sometimes feel guilty about taking vacation days and leaving their coworkers short-staffed. However, your vacation time is critical to your health and ability to refuel so that you can continue caring for others.

Stay Healthy

Nurses are skilled in educating patients on ways to stay healthy. You teach about diet, exercise, and chronic disease management. But how well do you keep you with your own wellness? Make your health your number one priority. Get plenty of sleep each night, eat a well-balanced diet, and get at least 30-minutes of activity daily.

Practice Gratitude

Each of us has many blessings in life. Expressing our gratitude can boost your mood and remind you of reasons to be thankful. Try telling the most important people in your life how you feel about them. Or, keep a gratitude journal to jot down two to three things you are thankful for each day.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Whether you need a little assistance with an admission or a patient who needs a PRN medication, asking for help can make your day run a little smoother. You should also ask for help outside of work when you need it too. If you feel that your happiness tank is getting dangerously low and you are struggling with symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts, make an appointment to talk to a counselor or psychologist.

Take a Walk

Getting outside can boost your spirits. Feeling the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair is an excellent way to inject a little bit of happiness in the middle of a busy day. If you're having a stressful day, take a 15-minute break to get outside and get a little sunshine.

Volunteer Your Time

Nothing can boost your mood quite like giving freely of your time and gifts. Find a charity organization that aligns with your purpose in life and spend some time working with others who may be less fortunate than yourself.

Have a Good Laugh

Did you know that laughing releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical, into your bloodstream? Laughing also relaxes muscles and can relieve built-up tension and stress. So, the next time you are looking for ways to boost your happiness, catch a comedy show, hang with your bestie who knows just how to make you laugh, or play a fun game with your family.

Practice Mindfulness

Life is busy. Whether you've received your fourth admission for the day or you're trying to balance work and family life, taking time to connect to the present is critical to your happiness. The good news about mindfulness is that you can practice it pretty much anywhere. Find a quiet place like the breakroom at work or your bedroom at home and sit down in a comfortable position. Then, close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. As you breathe in, silently and slowly count to four, then hold your breath for a count of four, followed by a long exhale for a count of six. Do this for at least one cycle, but preferably two to three times.

Happiness is a much-needed emotion. If you don't plan ways to increase your happiness in your everyday life, you can start feeling sad, depressed, or disconnected from those around you. What other ways do you increase your happiness? Comment below to let us know what activities bring a smile to your face.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word.

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Specializes in ER, ICU, anticoagulation mgmt. Has 40 years experience.

Great article!

If one can use those tools listed, it helps to distract from/relieve work stress.

Unfortunately, the hospital environments have been overtaken by corporate culture and "do more with less".

Nursing used to be a true calling, a fine art, a way to practice nursing, when I started as a RN 36 years ago. Much different now. It's all about numbers and $$ for hospitals.

Sooo... take care of yourselves! Do the best you can at work. Then go home and do lots of self-care, be with friends, whatever makes you de-stress and be happy, knowing that you are giving your best effort in a very difficult job.

I also recommend the book, "The Happiness Project", by Gretchen Rubin. It's a wonderful book, easy to read. I'm currently taking an online class on Positive Psychology and this is the book we are following.

wishing more happiness to all who work on the front lines in nursing!

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

1,203 Posts

Specializes in Cardiology. Has 8 years experience.

Probably because cost of living is rising yet wages aren't keeping up. You get penalized for calling in sick. Hospitals only care about money. Its very easy to see why people aren't happy anymore.

TriciaJ, RN

4,296 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 42 years experience.

11. Retire. Bwahahahahahahah!


151 Posts

Specializes in Nursing. Has 6 years experience.

One thing I have realized, in terms of job satisfaction, is that it REALLY matters to me that I have a rhythm to my schedule and that I work during the day (not at night).

Schedule is a HUGE component for me to be satisfied in my work.

For me, a Mon-Fri schedule works best. I also prefer to have the same schedule as my boyfriend, so we can have weekends off together.

When I am not getting good sleep and my schedule is wacky - I am an unhappy camper!

It is good to know this about myself - so I can realize what it takes to keep me happy. I used to complain about the 9-5 grind, but now I realize that I actually prefer the predictability. Everyone is different, but for me, this matters.

And luckily there are M-F, 9-5 nursing jobs out there!!! ?