Spreading positivity – spread that stuff thick!

Ok I get it… life’s hard … the kids are sick.. you are working your butt off, your boss is a control freak, your partner is AWOL, your legs need waxing and your inbox has exploded.

It’s really hard to stay upbeat and positive, in fact our brains are hardwired to notice the negative (that’s a blog for another day but in the meantime I really suggest you read Hardwired For Happiness by Rick Hanson.)

What is becoming clear to researchers that happiness is a choice, positivity is a choice.

I am NOT suggesting that you run around ”pumping sunshine” – that kind of insincerity is toxic – instead try small daily practices to improve both your mood and those around you.

Barbara Frederickson’s work around positivity suggests you need three positive emotions to lift you up for every negative emotion that drags you down. Her research found that people “under the influence of positivity” were more resilient, more creative, more tolerant.  People who experience the right amount of positivity have broader “thought action repertoires” – they can literally see more, feel more and experience more.

 Links to Barbara Fredrickson on YouTube and book, Positivity.

Stress response to negative events are actually really useful. If we are frightened or threatened our body prepares us to do something – fight or flee. Positive emotions however, help us to manage the fallout of stressful events. Getting plenty of positivity is kinda like getting enough goodness in our diet. Good nutrition won’t prevent you from getting sick but it certainly helps to speed your recovery when we do.

How do you become more positive – even if you don’t feel it?

Practice being nice.  Everybody loves a smile and a ‘thank you’ but we get busy and we forget.

Share the good stories first.  Get meetings off to a good start by sharing good stories. Some idea starters are:

  • What’s something that’s made you smile this week
  • Tell me something that has made you feel proud this quarter
  • What’s better since we last met.

Help people identify their strengths.  Affirming is a great way to do this.  Listen for the strengths in the good news story and try this: 

“what impressed me about what __ (insert name)__ just told us,  was how _______ you are and how you showed organisation and persistence.”

Better yet, take the Character Strengths survey and make sure YOU are using your strengths every day www.viacharacter.org

Don’t allow downward conversations.  Focusing on the problem and what’s wrong takes our energy away but it’s easy to get trapped into these conversations. Practice Solution Focus techniques. Better yet, politely tell the person who is complaining that they are making you feel drained.

Gossip is the enemy of a happy workplace, don’t allow it.

Listen and empathise.  Take 3 minutes to truly listen to a grizzling colleague.  Don’t comment or try to find solutions, just empathise …  “I can see how working with a new employee is really draining on your time”.  “It must frustrate you when they constantly interrupt you”.

People just want to be heard.

Offer to share the load.  In schools; offer to take a playground duty or take the class for an hour while the teacher meets with a parent.  Offer some admin assistance time to get that project going. Suggest working away from the office for a morning, make someone a cuppa or bring them lunch. Expect nothing in return.

Step away from that computer, desk or classroom.  Have a conversation, share a joke, laugh loudly, tell someone why today has been a great day!

Practice noticing. Notice nice things, good work, flowers, the sunshine as it enters your room. Notice the acts of kindness by others, the flavour of your coffee, notice the sounds of laughter or collaboration. Once you start to notice the good stuff, you start seeing more.