Tips for Staying Happy in Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Spring 2020
Volume 14
Issue 1

By focusing on our circle of influence—that is, what we have control over—we can take charge of our careers and achieve professional happiness.

Conventional wisdom tells us that if we work harder, we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we will be happier. This reasoning is backward. Happiness is the fuel of success.

We all feel as if happiness is a thing we should have more of. And even though we know that happy people tend to live longer, experience fewer severe health issues, perform better at work, and socialize more, happiness still sometimes seems elusive.

Happiness can also play a significant role in your overall success in your professional life. In her book The Happiness Project, self-help author Gretchen Rubin says, “Happiness is a critical factor for work, and work is a critical factor for happiness.” Happy employees outperform unhappy employees. They also get along better with others, collaborate more, and are less prone to burnout, absenteeism, and work disputes.1

Work can also be a source of many of the elements necessary for a happy life, such as an atmosphere of growth, social contact, fun, a sense of purpose, self-esteem, and recognition.1,2

We do not have control over a lot of things in our work environment. However, by focusing on our circle of influence—that is, what we have control over—we can take charge of our careers and achieve professional happiness.

The following 7 tips can help you achieve happiness while working in pharmacy:


Instead of following someone else’s definition of happiness in life and work, think about what it means to you. Is happiness a roof over your head, a safe environment, or helping others find effective therapy? Whatever it is, stay clear of the happiness myth we tell ourselves: “I’ll be happy when I….” By learning and defining how to be happy in your present state, you will be living in the moment instead of waiting for life to happen to you.


By the nature of our work, pharmacists are either standing or sitting in front of a computer for most of the day. Good posture can instantly make you feel more energetic and cheerful. Instead of hunching over your desk or straining your eyes at the screen, focus on your body’s alignment by centering your computer horizontally in front of you, an arm’s length away, and make sure your eyes are level with the upper portion of the screen. If eyestrain is contributing to headaches, take small breaks when you can.


Let’s be honest: our jobs are busy and stressful. We are bombarded by constant distractions, negative coworkers, or a lack of resources, and that can contribute to burnout or getting stuck in patterns of negative behavior. However, instead of being trapped in negative patterns, we can try to get stuck in positive ones.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor describes the Tetris Effect: the person who walks into the room and immediately finds the 1 thing to complain about.3 Many times, this habit is caused by the inability to break a pattern of behavior because the brain is good at scanning the negatives.

By nature of our profession, we scan the negatives. We make sure procedures are compliant, written correctly, safe, and accurate, but we can also let the habit bleed into the other areas of our lives. It can be very hard to break out of a pattern like that, but we can turn the negative into a positive Tetris Effect by reframing our thoughts and focusing on what we can control.


Exercise is one of the most effective—and easiest—ways to lift your mood. Study results show that exercise changes the brain by adding volume to the hippocampus, the area linked to happiness that tends to be smaller in people with depression.4,5 It also releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that can positively affect our moods. Not only does exercise help blunt stress, it also helps minimize inflammation, and it is helpful for both our physical and emotional resilience. These are all essential elements to our happiness.4


In health care, taking a lunch break is usually an afterthought. Maybe the reason we are not able to leave our workstation is because of workload, or maybe it is a company policy about when breaks are allowed or whether food is permitted in patient care areas. Though we cannot control everything about our work environments, management at many companies is starting to see the importance of allowing pharmacists to take breaks to increase productivity and engagement. Stash some nuts in your pocket, run to the hospital cafeteria for a smoothie, or keep a banana in your bag for emergencies. No one likes a “hangry” pharmacist, so advocate about your need to eat.


Whether you are pursuing a passion project, a side hustle, or a hobby, make space in your life to pursue what you enjoy. And if you are thinking, “I have no idea what to do or where to start,” do not overcomplicate it. You don’t have to make your hobby into a business; just start following and developing your interests. You might join a running club, get involved in a charitable organization, or take up photography. The idea is to invest time in yourself and get fulfillment from an activity outside work.


When someone gives you a compliment, brings you lunch, or jumps into your work queue to help, it makes you feel good. As Mark Twain is often credited as saying, “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Performing acts of kindness for others can go a long way, in making not only their days better but yours too.

“Happiness doesn’t come from focusing on yourself,” says Laurie Santos, PhD, host of The Happiness Lab podcast. So when you are feeling down at work, make time for a heartfelt conversation, bring your coworker a favorite treat, or give a colleague a well-deserved compliment. The effect will help not only them, but you as well.

JOANNA G. LEWIS, PHARMD, MBA, has practiced pharmacy in a variety of settings, and is the author of the Pharmacist’s Guide blog and series of e-books.


  • Rubin, G. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. New York, NY: Harper, 2009.
  • Seligman, M. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. New York, NY. Free Press, 2011.
  • Anchor, S. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. New York, NY: Crown Business, 2010.
  • Blumenthal J, Smith P, Hoffman B. Is exercise a viable treatment for depression? ACSMs Health Fit J. 2012;16(4):14-21. doi: 10.1249/01.FIT.0000416000.09526.eb.
  • Carek PJ, Laibstein SE, Carek SM. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(1):15-28. doi: 10.2190/PM.41.1.c.

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