Okay, it kind of is, but with good reason. As almost anyone who is unemployed and looking for a job will tell you (but anyone among the majority of Americans dissatisfied with their jobs may find shocking), work is a predictor of happiness. Only about two-thirds of unemployed workers say they are satisfied with life, while more than three-quarters of working stiffs are.
That may be because work daily gives us access to other predictors of happiness. Events like staff meetings and birthday cake breaks provide social connection, which is a major predictor of happiness.
Work can also provide a sense of purpose and an opportunity to help others. And, if you have work that challenges you but is still within your capabilities, work offers flow experiences—those stretches when you’re so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time.
“The most satisfied workers find their skills tested, their work varied, their tasks significant,” writes psychologist David Myers in The Pursuit of Happiness. A lot of that has to do with how a person frames his work more than what kind of work he does. An 18-year-old brick maker in Pakistan who makes $3.50 a day working alongside his siblings told NPR, “I’m happy because we are builders of the nation. If we don’t make bricks, people can’t build anything. Pakistan is going to develop every day because of us.” Knowing how you contribute to the bigger picture—whether as a member of a work team, a sports team, or the human race—boosts feelings of wellbeing.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term “flow,” has some suggestions for how to increase enjoyment and opportunities to experience flow, whether at work or at play. Set goals and measure your progress, immerse yourself in the activity, and focus on that moment in time, rather than worrying about tomorrow.
Money, by the way, doesn’t buy happiness, once basic needs are met. But happiness may bring more money. According to Myers, in recent research “Today’s happiness predicted tomorrow’s income better than today’s income predicted tomorrow’s happiness.”
Photo via: NPR