A happy nurse playing with her dog while off-duty

12 Ways to Be a Happy Nurse

Happiness is the best prescription we can recommend to nurses like you. While joy does not come in pill form, there are easy steps that you can take to become a happy nurse.

It’s important to cultivate your happiness since nursing is a challenging profession. Sometimes, the tough demands of your job can drain you emotionally, mentally, and physically. To top things off, the COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for frontliners. It’s no wonder that burnout is common among nurses and health care professionals.

It’s essential that you make efforts to pursue joy for the sake of your emotional and mental health. It’s the best way for you to avoid burnout and to sustain your nursing career for the long haul. 

Here are 12 ways that you can become a happy nurse:

1. Create Your Own Happy Space

You’re probably bombarded by tasks and requests from all directions in your workplace. Even at home, you still need to face personal and family duties. That’s why you should create your very own “happy space” where you can be free from all responsibilities even for short periods of time.

Transform your bedroom or another area into a mini-retreat space. Remove the clutter and decorate the space with relaxing items, such as plants, throw pillows, and artwork. You can also play soothing music and diffuse a calming scent in the room for a rejuvenating effect. Finally, you should surround yourself with your favorite items, such as your treasured books, photos, movies, posters, or anything that makes you smile.

Your happy space can help you become a happy nurse who can share happiness with your patients.

2. Exercise to Boost Your Happy Hormones

Exercise is an effective way to uplift your mood. According to Harvard Health, exercise can boost your endorphins, a.k.a. “happy hormones,” and lessen your body’s  adrenaline and cortisol, a.k.a. “stress hormones.”

You should make an effort to exercise to unwind after completing your nursing duties for the day. There are many fitness activities you can choose from, ranging from calming ones like walking and yoga to exciting ones like kickboxing and rock climbing. You can pick an exercise that matches your personal tastes and physical condition.

You don’t even have to stick to one type of fitness activity. You can try out different kinds of exercise to keep things interesting and motivating.

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Life is a mixed bag. It will be easier for you to focus on the positive things instead of the negative ones by keeping a gratitude journal.

Who are the people and what are the experiences you are grateful for as a nurse? Write about all these things on a regular basis. You may record detailed stories about your nursing life or you may simply jot down lists.

Whether you use a fancy leather journal or a plain notebook, what’s important is that you will have a solid reminder of the reasons why you should be a happy nurse.

4. Learn New Things

If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, you can break out of it by learning new things. You can develop your skills as a nurse through workshops or online courses. For a refreshing change, you can also pick up new skills that are totally unrelated to nursing.

You can study a foreign language, discover a new dance style, and unleash your creativity through an arts-and-crafts activity. You can even learn practical skills like carpentry and gardening so you can embark on a DIY home makeover project.

When you learn new things, you can become happier in two ways. First, you can enjoy the feeling of achievement after mastering a new skill. Second, your mind and body can benefit from being stimulated and challenged in new ways.

5. Bond With Your Pets

Being a pet owner can help you become a happy nurse. Owning a pet can have a positive effect on mental health, according to the Mental Health Foundation in the UK.

Consider adopting a pet from your local animal shelter if you don’t have one yet. Many people have cats and dogs since they are wonderful furry friends. However, you can also choose other kinds of animals as pets, such as hamsters, fish, or birds.

If you already have pets, spend more time bonding with them. You can play with your pets in the yard, exercise with them at the park, or simply cuddle with them at home. You will not only cheer yourself up but your animal companions as well.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Do your best to get at least eight hours of sleep so you can feel refreshed and energized. It’s easier for you to face a new day with a bright outlook if you had enough rest the night before.

Sleep has a major impact on your mood. You can avoid being grumpy and irritable at work by getting the sleep your body needs.

Make sure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep. Keep your room cool, quiet, and dim when you are getting ready for bed at night. If you are a nurse who works night shifts and sleeps in the daytime, get thick curtains or blinds so you can keep the room dark in spite of the sunlight.

7. Volunteer

One of the best ways to be a happy nurse is to make other people happy. Of course, you already have opportunities to cheer up your patients as you take care of them.

However, it is also refreshing to volunteer in ways that are not directly related to your nursing work. You can teach children with special needs, visit elderly residents at retirement homes, or give foster care to animals from your local shelter.

Making a difference in the lives of others can make a good difference in yours.

8. Eat Foods that Improve Your Mood

What you eat can affect how you feel. Food that is rich in tryptophan, a type of amino acid, can have a positive effect on your mood, according to the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care.

Eating food that contains tryptophan can increase your serotonin, a chemical messenger that may stabilize your mood. Some examples of tryptophan-rich food that you can include in your regular diet are oats, cheese, eggs, fish, chicken, and turkey.

Food that improves your mood can always come in handy since your work as a nurse can be emotionally taxing at times.

9. Take a Vacation

While it helps to have a happy space you can retreat to every day, there are times when you need a real vacation. A change of scenery and a long break can be instrumental in rejuvenating your mind and body.

Ideally, it would be a terrific idea for you to take a trip to a country you have never visited before. However, if your international travel plans are postponed because of the pandemic, you can still visit a spot in your region that you haven’t had the chance to explore yet. Both domestic and international travel gives you the chance to soak in new sights and experiences. You may also have a peaceful staycation at a nearby hotel or resort if you just want to rest and relax.

You can only continue to be a happy nurse if you occasionally take a much-needed break from your nursing responsibilities.

10. Focus on Daily Tasks in a Meditative Manner

As a nurse, you have regular assignments that you need to perform on a daily basis. Instead of becoming bored by repetitive duties, you can choose to find inner strength through your daily routine.

Focus on each task you are facing, whether you are giving medication to your patients, filling up charts and documents, or assisting doctors and colleagues. Complete your assignments in a mindful manner. Be fully present as you interact with your patients and teammates.

Having a meditative attitude at work will help you appreciate each moment of your life as a nurse.

11. Spend Time With Your Friends and Family

It’s tempting to skip hanging out with other people when you’re tired from work. Still, while you don’t need to force yourself to have a busy social life, you should at least make an effort to have fun with the people you care for on a regular basis.

Social laughter increases your endorphins, a.k.a. “happy hormones,” according to the Journal of Neuroscience. It’s always a great idea to watch a funny movie or to enjoy a witty conversation with your family and friends. If you’re practicing social distancing, you can still watch a movie or have a conversation with friends over a video call.

12. Remind Yourself

What inspired you to become a nurse in the first place? Post a photo, quote, or note in your locker or desk which reminds you of the original reason why you pursued a nursing career.

Having a tangible reminder will help you recall why you began your journey as a nurse. You may have ups and downs over the years, but as long as you don’t forget your motivation for choosing your vocation, you will have a good chance of becoming and remaining a happy nurse.