This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski.

You might not realize this, even after years away from a traditional office. Working from home builds character.

When we perform meaningful work in solitude we gain greater control of our consciousness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spends an entire chapter discussing this concept in his bestselling book Flow. Human prefer to be around other humans, he observes. We find comfort in even the most dismal tasks if someone else is with us.

To work in a home office, devoid of the traditional office’s social element, brings us closer to a kind of self mastery.

We might feel consolation in that idea, but let’s be honest: every home office worker longs for some kind of social interaction. It doesn’t have to be every day, but some level of human contact can go a long way in increasing our overall happiness.

In this way, money can buy happiness. Four activities in particular can boost your happiness, and even your motivation, with a modest outlay. Sure you could go the free route and work from a coffee shop. But Len’s post, with which I wholeheartedly agree, takes the wind out of those sails. Best to find ways you can invest in yourself — when it comes to personal improvement, you get what you pay for.

Joining a gym

Sitting at home all day, in the same chair, staring at the same screen, can bore even the most self-motivated among us. We need time to get away, to relax. You can find that break during lunch at a local eatery, or you could take that money and invest it in a gym membership.

There is no lack of research on the mental benefits of exercise. The list seems endless. Workout and transform both your body and your brain. At an average cost of just under $60 per month, a gym membership is one expense you can probably afford as an investment in happiness.

Then again, merely joining a gym won’t do the trick. A recent study claims that 67 percent of people with gym memberships never use them. Make sure you carve out regular time to visit yours.

Simple hack: Start attending classes. They’re far more social than the general weight and cardio rooms, and they help motivate you to keep going.

Finding coworking space

After spending ample time outside the traditional office setting, you might find yourself longing for those hours spent around the water cooler. Yet you probably don’t crave a full return to that lifestyle. If only you could take certain elements of the workplace and combine them with your work-from-home lifestyle.

Perhaps as a response to the growing at-home workforce, coworking spaces have cropped up all around the country. Statistics suggest that coworking spaces can alleviate feelings of isolation and increase productivity. They allow at-home workers to experience the positive elements of the office without all of the negatives.

Best of all, you can find coworking spaces that rent space by the hour, by the day, and by the month. Sites like ShareDesk help you find a coworking space that works for you. If you need it for just a couple of days, or find value in a monthly plan, you can find a way to get out, socialize, and still remain productive.

Hiring a virtual assistant

When are you happiest while working? Answers will vary for everyone, but chances are you don’t find much joy in performing administrative tasks. Then, depending on your field, you might find little joy in things like networking, social media, and marketing.

Finding a qualified person to take these tasks off your hands can prove not only difficult, but also expensive. You’d be far happier if someone else could do them, but the stress of finding and paying a full-time employee can offset that happiness. Finding a qualified freelancer to work on contract can be even more difficult and frustrating.

The answer: virtual assistants. We’re not talking about VA’s for email and calendar assistance, a la Tim Ferriss in The Four Hour Workweek. We’re talking some serious, heavy duty VAs. Companies like Worldwide101 offer business-grade virtual assistants who can act like virtual staff, rather than assistants.

We’re getting into the expensive territory here: even 10 hours of quality VA service can set you back several hundred dollars. But imagine the happiness of clearing your plate for deeper, more meaningful work.

Attending a conference

We finally get to the most expensive, the happiness inducer that will set you back more than a thousand dollars in most cases. Think back to the conferences you’ve attended in the past. Didn’t you feel a rush of motivation when attending them? You can use that rush to your strategic advantage.

At the same time, it’s easy to waste those thousand-plus dollars if you don’t do conferences right.

Find one that meets your goals. At conferences you can find new leads, you can network with industry leaders, and you can learn about the newest advances. Make sure to read up about conferences in your industry to find out which offer the best opportunities for these goals. If you’re looking for new business leads, you might not want to attend a conference that caters directly to your industry. You’ll want one that caters more to vendors.

Always network. There will always be opportunities for networking at conferences, and not in the hustling-with-business-cards sense. Scott Dinsmore provides some captivating tips for making real connections at live events.

Have an after-conference plan. The rush you feel from attending a conference can wear off pretty quickly, so have a plan in place for your return. Heather Myklegard at BusyConf has some ideas for how you can extend that rush and get the most out of your conference attendance.

Travel is a blessing. Ever notice that you can get a lot done on a plane? It makes sense when you think about it. You’re in an isolated space, next to someone you don’t know. What better time to focus? Here’s an additional tip: don’t buy WiFi. Plan out what you want to get done, and do it distraction-free.

In these cases, money can buy you happiness. With a varying level of investment, you can find all the positive elements of an office without the negative. In some cases, you can just use the money you’d otherwise spend on a commute. But whatever the case, the investment is in yourself.

So how much is your happiness worth?

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer and digital marketer who helps clients with content marketing and SEO needs. He has nearly eight years of work-from-home experience, and recently convinced an employer to ditch the office and embrace the remote workforce. You can find his musings on habits, behavior, and overall fitness at The Pursuit of Abundance.

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