The Sunday Night Blues is a thing some of us know all too well. The Sunday night blues has been described as a purported psychological condition in which the sufferer experiences anxiety the evening before returning to work the following day after a break. You can experience the Sunday night blues any night of the week, but specifically the night before returning to work after being off a day or so. According to a survey conducted by Monster.com, 78% of respondents reported experiencing the “Sunday Night Blues”.
A worldwide survey conducted by Gallup showed that 85% of people hate their job. Considering the amount of time we spend at work during our lifetime, this is a scary figure.
I’ve worked for 7 different organizations across several different industries, some large and some startups. The one thing all my jobs had in common was that I eventually started to hate them. After working for a company considered to be the number one place to work in America and hating it, I went on a quest to figure out how to finally start enjoying my work despite the circumstances or work environment.
After working with a career coach, reading countless self-development books, listening to career podcasts, and lots of trial and error, I came up with a strategy that has led me to enjoy going to work!
Here’s the strategy that has changed my work life for the better!
According to Harvard Medical School gratitude is linked to greater happiness. Gratitude helps inflict positive emotions, create good experiences, improve health, combat adversity, and build strong relationships. Changing my mindset to one of gratitude instead of complaint has completely changed my life and experience at work.
We do not have to go to work. We get to go to work. No one is forcing us to work at a job that we hate. We have chosen a certain lifestyle that our job affords us. We get to go to work so that we can have a place to live and we can afford our expenses. At any moment we could choose to quit our jobs but that may mean that we also have to give up our lifestyle. Because of this, whenever feelings of discontent arise we should restructure our thoughts to appreciate what the job affords us.
Try saying things like “I get to go to work so that I can live in my warm home.” “I get to go to work so that I can afford my bills”. “I get to go to work so that I can provide for my family”. “I get to go to work to save up for my future business”. Come up with a couple of phrases that remind you of what your job affords you and say them to yourself whenever you feel like complaining about your job. You may feel like this is silly at first but eventually, your feelings will catch up to the positive affirmations you are projecting.
Sometimes when my alarm goes off I may experience a slight feeling of dread. When this feeling comes I say to myself:
“I get to go to work so that I can afford to live in New York City”.
Ways to practice expressing gratitude at work:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 things at the end of each workday that you are grateful for. It can be something simple like the free coffee in the break room or a coworker helping you out with something. There is always something to be grateful for each day. A study conducted by Emmons & McCullough showed that people who kept a gratitude journal felt better about their lives, were more optimistic, and were more likely to make progress towards their goals. I use The Five Minute Journal every morning and night to express gratitude and set intentions for the day.
- Say thank you. In-person, via email, or with a thank you note. According to Harvard Medical, showing your appreciation for someone at work will make you happier and help nurture your relationship with the other person.
Create flow at work
Famous psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi coined the term flow as the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Flow is also known as “being in the zone”. Flow is the result of recognizing new challenges and developing skills we did not have before.
According to Mihály’s book Flow, undefined or repetitive jobs like office jobs do not create flow naturally, but it is possible to change our job around to create flow by creating our own small goals and challenges. For instance, setting deadlines for yourself and small milestones you can accomplish such as completing a certain amount of work per hour or setting up 5 meetings per week. These self-created challenges will make work more enjoyable because you can measure your success. Even if you do not reach a goal you set for yourself it will motivate you to try again, which sparks enjoyment.
To make work more enjoyable by creating flow, the following criteria must be met:
- Clarity- We must be clear on our goals and responsibilities. If you are unclear, schedule conversations with your superior until you have gained clarity.
- Camaraderie- We need to get along well with our supervisors. This one can be very hard if you work with difficult people. However, it is not impossible. You can choose to create camaraderie even with difficult colleagues by figuring out what it takes to get to know them better, learning what they want and learning how to best communicate with them. If you have subordinates, ensure that they are motivated and have clear goals. Make sure they have what they feel they need from you.
- Become an expert- People who most enjoy their job are people who learn the most about it and become most skilled at it. This also leads to growth and improves how you are viewed at work. If your job doesn’t offer training or mentorship look outside of the company. Look for online classes or meetups for people in your field.
Have something to look forward to on Monday (or whatever day you start your workweek).
An article by Alice Boyes, Ph.D. on how to be happier explains how doing one thing you look forward to each day is an important part of fighting depression and being happier.
Some ideas: Make Monday the day you and coworker go out for lunch or you treat yourself to your favorite meal or dessert. Schedule a weekly phone call to catch up with a good friend. Maybe a little lunchtime shopping or window shopping. Basically, do anything that excites you or brings you peace that you can look forward to doing each week.
A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.
Use Sunday to prepare for the week ahead by completing tasks that will make the upcoming week run smoother. This may include meal prepping, picking out outfits, and maybe planning out important tasks. In addition to preparing for the week, be sure to use Sunday to rest and recharge. I also recommend participating in a Sunday Funday activity. Doing something you enjoy will ease any stress or anxiety you may have about the week ahead. You always want to end the weekend or your last day off on a good note. I love this New York Times article that documents how several professionals spend their Sundays to avoid the Sunday Night Blues.
My Sundays usually consist of attending church, then brunch with friends. After brunch, I prepare for the week ahead by meal prepping. This allows me to end the weekend having done things I enjoy while also setting myself up for an easier week because I will not have to spend time cooking after work or spending extra money eating out for lunch every day. This means when I come home from work I can relax and do something I enjoy while avoiding worrying about work the next day. Think about what makes you the happiest, relaxed, or fulfilled and fit some of those things into your Sunday routine.
Take a break!
Do not skip your lunch break every day, to sit at your desk and work. Even if it means you can leave earlier or you look more productive than others. This is not healthy. Taking a break reduces stress, and increases creativity. Taking a break to enjoy lunch will help fuel your brain and in turn make you even more productive and happier. Kimberly Elsbach, professor at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California at Davis, says that to perform best at work, it is important to step away from your desk and change your environment. Science shows that carbohydrates are the brain’s primary source of fuel, so skipping lunch can make you perform worse at work. Poor performance does not make a bad work situation any better.
Rest when you’re off.
A good night’s rest can make a world of difference. Studies have consistently shown that sleep deprivation often decreases your ability to concentrate, makes you more likely to snap at coworkers and decreases overall work performance. Being grumpy and unproductive will have a negative effect on your time at work.
When you look good, you feel good. There have been several studies that confirm this idea. A 2015 paper published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal, proved that people who wore more formal outfits performed better on cognitive tasks, and a 2012 study from Northwestern University introduced the term “enclothed cognition” to explain the psychological effect the clothing we wear has on us. Their findings suggested that people who wear nicer clothing or clothing that makes them confident are prone to perform better.
Putting effort into your appearance boosts confidence and therefore leads to positive feelings. The more confident and positive you are at work, the more enjoyable your day will be. Your added confidence may also lead to higher performance, which can then lead to more opportunities or promotions which bring you joy.
Find a friend.
You may feel like you do not fit in with your coworkers but I bet there is at least one person you can relate to on some level. From personal experience having a friend at work can make a world of difference. Being able to take a break to chat with someone who understands your current work environment can help you feel less isolated. I can honestly say I have only enjoyed work when I had at least one friend in the office. Research conducted by Gallup showed that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%). The thought of making friends at work may feel awkward or complicated but it does not have to be. Simply inviting someone to lunch can be the start of a new friendship.
Come up with a Purpose.
There is a reason for everything in life. Think about why you may be in your current job situation. Is it to learn something? Is it to help someone? Figure out your why and remind yourself when things get tough at work. For example, maybe you are working to save up to launch a business or purchase a home. Make sure your why is important enough to you to make you want to work for it.
We spend the majority of our lives working so we owe it to ourselves to make work enjoyable. You do not have to hate your job until you land your dream job. You can find joy at any job. It is so easy to think the solution to our dislike of a job is to get a new one, but from my experience, it is not long before you can start to dislike any job and end up in a never-ending cycle of job-hopping. I used to think I would never like my job. I can now confidently say I enjoy going to work most days and this is how I did it.