Relaxed at work: 5 simple things to lift your mood

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6 min read

In autumn and winter, the decrease in sunlight - which affects the "happiness hormone" serotonin - can often affect the mood. But stress at work in general can weigh you down and hurt your well-being, creativity and productivity. But even small things can help, which is why we have collected a few very simple tips to make the workdays lighter.

PS: The following article does not replace professional advice for mental health issues and for any severe cases, it is always advised to talk to your doctor.


  1. Observe Body & Mind
  2. Make time for Exercise & Microbreaks
  3. Try Breathing Exercises
  4. Stay Hydrated
  5. Put Negative Thoughts into Perspective
  6. Make Room for Small Talk
  7. Be Kind (it will make you happier)
  8. Set up Small Rituals in Your Everyday Work

Observe Body & Mind

Stress, anxiety and other negative feelings are often based on different causes that are not always clear. The interaction of body and mind can even create a chicken/egg problem where it's unclear what caused the issues first.

If you are not feeling well physically, this can also affect your stress level and mood. Conversely, stress often causes physical symptoms such as headaches, back pains, etc.

It can therefore help to do small things to lift your mood, tend to your body or relax: allowing natural light into the office, avoiding noisy environments, drinking water or having a snack can sometimes flip a switch and drive away the clouds when they were mainly caused by physical discomfort.

Make time for Exercise & Microbreaks

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According to a study by Mainsbridge, Cooley, Dawkins, et al (PDF), regular short exercise breaks (microbreaks) can not only reduce the risk of heart disease, but also alleviate work stress. For the study, employees were asked to stop work every 60 minutes and perform a small, simple exercise of their choice. As a result, participants felt less stressed and tired overall.

Here's a good example for stretches from BodyFit by Amy.


Try breathing exercises

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Stress has intense physical symptoms that can often create a snowball effect. Once your pulse is high and adrenaline is pumping through your body, it's hard to calm down just by thinking happy thoughts. Breathing exercises, however, can provide a kind of reboot by slowing your pulse and relaxing your body which in turn can help decrease the stress symptoms.

For example, follow the shape in the video. As long as the shape gets bigger, breathe in; when it gets smaller, breathe out slowly.

(Pay attention to your body when doing breathing exercises, if you don't feel good doing them, don't force yourself through them but just stop)

Stay hydrated

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It sounds too simple to be true, but dehydration can cause the body to release the stress hormone cortisol. On top of that, the body is basically on overdrive when you're under a stressful situation, which consumes a lot more fluids than usual.

This chicken/egg problem can be solved with one simple solution: drink a glass of water and make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day.

You can also get specific waterbottles that help you get a recommended amount of water during the day, and there are plenty of apps that are happy to remind you to take a well-deserved and -needed water break. 

Put negative thoughts into perspective

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In the article "How to handle stress at work" by Nicole J. LeBlanc and Luana Marques, the two Harvard scientists describe that negative thoughts are often "learned" and automatically arise at some point. But they can also be "unlearned" by treating them not as truths but as propositions to be refuted.

For example, if you receive a rather harsh e-mail from a colleague, it is often easier to assume that the colleague wanted to sound harsh and make you feel bad.

Alternative theories, however, could be that the colleague is currently under time pressure and did not have the time write a softer version of his email. Additionally, some people can sound harsh when they write but actually mean it differently when you talk to them in person.

Make room for small talk

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With the shift of many activities to digital spaces, the typical watercooler talks, coffee breaks and desk conversations can sometimes get lost in the daily business. But social interactions outside of business topics are part of a healthy work environment. There should always be time and space for "small talk."  

For example, at the start of virtual team meetings you can go around and ask everyone about the highlight of the day or weekend. Or you can set up coffee or after-work meetings where you can talk about anything but work.

Social contact and positive social interactions are a big part of your own mental health and should therefore also have their place at work.

Be kind (it will make you happier)

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It is scientifically proven that doing something good can make you feel good. Lee Rowland and Oliver Scott Curry found out in a study in 2019, that even small "acts of kindness" have an influence your well-being. According to the study, people who regularly perform small acts of kindness are happier in general.

When you perform small acts of kindness at your workplace, you will have more positive interactions as a result which will make you happier. Whether it's remembering important events in the lives of colleagues, offering advice or bringing a cake - doing good does you good.

Set up small rituals in your everyday work

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Rituals bring comfort and calm, and often help people focus on one thing for a few minutes. A study by Brooks, Schroeder, Risen et al (PDF) states that rituals can reduce stress and anxiety. Especially when meaning is attributed to the ritual, it has positive effects.

So, a little Zen in your office layout, a morning routine for a good day or a ritual before important meetings can impact your overall performance and mood.

Read, how the well-being of employees is a big part of the new work movement and why it's not just about remote work and digital workspaces.

What does 'New Work' mean? 

by Juliane Waack

Juliane Waack is Editor in Chief at DIGITALL and writes about the digital transformation, megatrends and why a healthy culture is essential for a successful business.

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