While work doesn’t have to be the main driver behind your sense of purpose, studies show that reframing how you think about your job can improve your sense of satisfaction. Deepening relationships with co-workers and reminding yourself how your job contributes to a greater good can change how you think about work. If you’re an insurance agent, for example, perceiving your job as a means of helping people get back on their feet after an accident, rather than focusing on a rote task like processing claims, can make your work more fulfilling.
“People think that in order to flourish, they need to do whatever their version of winning the Olympics is, or climbing a mountain, or having some epic experience,” Dr. Grant said.
If you’re feeling down, choose a small project. It could be as simple as cleaning the kitchen or doing yard work, or even washing your pillow cases. Maybe you set a 10-minute timer and go for a short jog, or try a one-minute meditation. Completing a simple, impactful task can build toward a sense of accomplishment.
Try something new.
“Many of us think we need to change our circumstances, get a job where we earn tons more money, or switch our relationships, buy something new,” said Dr. Santos. “But what the research really shows is that flourishing comes from a different set of behaviors and habits.”
And now that life is getting back closer to normal, there are more opportunities to branch out. You can join a book club or running group, take a pottery class, visit a museum or outdoor art exhibit, try a new recipe, explore a nearby trail or neighborhood or test out a free language learning app like Duolingo.
Most important for overall well being, Dr. Keyes said, is being interested in life; a sense of satisfaction or happiness tends to follow that. The pandemic has challenged us because we haven’t been able to pursue many of our previous interests, he said. “The first key to feeling good about life is to seek out new interests,” he said.