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The best ways to spread joy at work

how to spread more joy at your legal job

We all know that law firms can be stressful places to work. But did you know that your demanding legal job can make you unhappier in all areas of your life?

Stress causes our bodies to release cortisol, and cortisol, in turn, can lead to pervasive negative thinking. Is it any wonder, then, that law firms can very quickly become bastions of negativity?

Maybe it’s time to bring some joy back into your workday.

The good news is that through a few concerted actions, you can bring joy to even the most stressful of workplaces. And although not everyone will catch the “joy bug,” you are always in control of finding — and maintaining — your own joy.

Here are our top tips for spreading joy at work…even if you end up being the only person at your job that feels it.

Offer a daily dose of the “best medicine”

We’ve all heard the age-old saying: laughter is the best medicine.

Did you know that this notion is backed by science?

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is actually a really good way to release stress and improve your health.

So, how do you bring laughter into your law firm?

Well, for one thing, you need to know when and where jokes are appropriate, as well as what kind of jokes are appropriate in the workplace.

Let’s start with what not to joke about. According to Wall St. Watchdog (and common sense), you should never make jokes about sex, religion, politics, or appearance, and practical jokes are off limits at work.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from any jokes that put someone down, including yourself. Self-deprecating humor can sometimes show that you don’t take yourself too seriously, but it often comes across in ways you don’t expect. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than making a joke about yourself and seeing the looks of horror and pity on your coworker’s faces.

What can you do?

Keep your sense of humor positive. You can be silly, irreverent, or use clever wordplay to lighten a situation. Instead of putting the professionally-posed family Christmas photo on your desk, frame the goofy shots to remind you of a time you all laughed together.

Groan-worthy puns, often called “dad jokes,” are often funny without being lewd or negative. So are things like newspaper comics, novelty coffee mugs, and punny tee shirts. Just be sure that your workplace dress code allows that type of attire first.

If you want to get really serious about workplace humor, consider reading up on the skill of comedy. Believe it or not, entire books have been dedicated to this topic.

Have a confidence crew

When you surround yourself with people who boost your confidence, chances are you’re going to feel happier.

This is common sense.

When people feel insecure, they tend to have a negative outlook. Confidence, on the other hand, can make you feel like nothing can penetrate your armor of positivity.

In order to have this principle assist with spreading joy throughout the office, however, you can’t just be on the receiving end of all that confidence.

Try to think about people outside of your own confidence circle who might benefit from your ongoing support. Become a part of their confidence crew and watch the positivity spread like wildfire.

Encourage your coworkers to celebrate their achievements. Thank people for their help, and speak positively about them when they’re not around.

Realistically, you don’t have control over other people and their emotional state, so you can’t make your coworkers more confident. You can, however, help create an environment where confidence has a chance to thrive.

Avoid emotional vampires

The corollary to surrounding yourself with positive people, of course, is to avoid negative people. These folks are also known as emotional vampires for obvious reasons.

You know the type, don’t you?

They’re always complaining about every little thing that happens in the workplace. They tend to gossip, enjoy drama, and lift themselves up by cutting other people down. It feels like they latch on and suck the joy right out of your brain.

While ignoring these people all together might seem a bit harsh, you can at least refuse to indulge their negative behavior.

If they start to share gossip with you, politely tell them you’re not interested in the drama.

If they start complaining about work, gently remind them that you’re probably not the proper recipient of their complaints.

The hope is that by modeling positive, joyful behavior, you can pull them into your positive sphere before they pull others into the darkness. At the very least, though, you can set firm boundaries to keep them from draining your joy.

Give sincere compliments

How many times have you had a nice thought about someone that you didn’t share?

Maybe it’s time to start vocalizing your complimentary thoughts.

Simply put, genuine compliments make people feel good and are a great way to spread joy throughout the office.

Your honest, off-the-cuff comments lift others up and make them feel amazing. Those warm fuzzies are contagious, and the more happiness you share, the more it multiplies.

If you don’t want to comment on someone’s appearance and you’re looking for other authentic ways to give compliments, consider adding these positivity-boosting compliments to your arsenal of cheer.

One good rule to follow is to avoid complimenting permanent features (example: you have nice hair) and instead compliment an action that took effort (example: the way you styled your hair today is really cool) to keep things appropriate and comfortable.

Be kind

Kindness is like a lubricant for the soul.

Not only will being kind to others lift their day, but it’s likely to help you feel good as well.

Fortunately, it’s easy to be kind in the workplace. Things as simple as bringing in tasty treats, saying thank you, making time to mentor someone, or offering to help with a project can make everyone feel better.

Forgiveness is another form of kindness that we all need in the workplace. Allow people to make mistakes and have grace when things go wrong.


Perhaps the easiest thing you can do to spread joy around your law firm is to simply smile as you walk through the hallways.

Believe it or not, science backs the notion that smiles are contagious. Human beings are actually hardwired to mimic the emotional expressions they see on other people’s faces.

Assuming this is true, imagine how much joy you could bring to your firm simply by being the person who brings a smile to work each day.

There’s also evidence that smiling, even when you don’t feel happy, can change your mood and make you feel happier. We tend to think that feeling happy makes you smile, but it works the other way around, too.

Stop and smell the roses

In one last bit of good news for today, we’d like to remind you that flowers are a wonderful way to spread joy around your office.

Indeed, even during the depths of the pandemic, some kind souls brought front-line workers daily doses of joy by delivering flowers to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Even if you can’t afford to purchase flowers for the office, perhaps you can organize groups of home gardeners who volunteer to bring in bouquets for the office. Alternatively, you can try craft flowers that won’t wilt.

Whatever effort you make in this regard, everyone’s day will be a little bit brighter for it.

Adding more joy to your workday

Some of the best things about spreading joy are that it is so simple to do and it has such a profound impact on others.

When things like laughter, smiles, compliments, and kindness are proven to bring joy into our lives as well as the lives of those around us, it really makes you stop and wonder why we don’t make a point to do these things more often.

Let’s all try to change that for the next month or two and see what happens, shall we?


  • Jennifer Anderson

    Jennifer Anderson is the founder of Attorney To Author, where she helps legal professionals bring their book projects to life. She was a California attorney for nearly two decades before becoming a freelance writer, marketing/branding consultant, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Her upcoming book, Breaking Out of Writer's Block, Exercises and inspirations for getting the words out of your head and onto the page, is due out in September 2023.

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