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Recognising the value of positivity at work

Recognising the value of positivity at work

Psychologists Louise Lambert and Alex Davda explain how to promote a better working environment

First things first – positivity does not just refer to office hugs, laughing groups, and being optimistic when trouble is looming.

Rather, ‘positivity’ – as defined in positive psychology – refers to the experience of positive emotions, like gratitude, curiosity, elevation, and inspiration. As well as positive experiences, feeling pride in a successful project and acknowledging someone’s heartfelt efforts can bring huge benefits to the workplace.

Positive emotions help us by broadening and expanding our visual ranges, such that when we are under the influence of positive emotions, we pay greater attention to positive stimuli (i.e. opportunities that can help us reach goals). As a result of taking in more of the environment, our perception, focus, and attention increases, expanding our thoughts and behaviours that allow us to capitalise on opportunities.

Additionally, positive emotions can undo the physiological effects of negative emotions (stress and anger) and restore functioning back to normal. They also decrease our physiological reactivity to stress and improve immune system responses. People who experience greater positivity take better care of themselves by eating nutritious food, sleeping adequately and exercising. When under positivity’s influence, individuals have a cognitive advantage by generating more creative and flexible ideas, as well as solutions, and integrating information more effectively leading to better decision-making.

Positivity feels good, is rewarding, and contributes to meaning at work, but moments of positivity can do much more. So how do you generate positive emotions? Here are a few ideas:

Gratitude

Select a person in your organisation who has helped you in the past and drop them an email or post-it note to say thank you. Saying it in person too will give you both a boost and get some positive energies flowing.

Connect with others

Recognise someone who gets ignored and tell them why they are great. Simply tell them that their efforts are being noticed and you do see and appreciate it.

Kind acts

Doing something for others prevents us from over thinking problems and contradicts our mean world assumptions. After all, if you are capable of goodness, others are too. Even a small gesture such as buying someone a latte and leaving it on their desk as a small token of your gratitude can promote more positivity around you.

Change your mindset

Pretend you are being job-shadowed all day and demonstrate a positive work attitude. Creating an internal audience and feeling observed can help us change our moods more easily than just struggling alone.

Reminisce

This strategy takes no time at all. Think of your favourite memory; a trip, your daughter’s graduation, your son’s first steps, your weekend on the beach and recollect the details. What you saw, how you felt, what you heard and experienced. Really put yourself back there and watch your positive mood increase.

Positive emotions take mere seconds to generate and yet their benefits expand into so many different directions in the present and future. People who experience frequent positivity show greater work productivity and are able to engage in greater emotional self-regulation, self-control, and delay of immediate gratification.

Finally, the more positivity the more sociable people become and have the ability to strengthen their networks. This becomes helpful in times of need and opportunity. Positivity even brings forward greater cooperation and collaboration in negotiations as well as more interpersonal trust.

Louise Lambert is a canadian registered psychologist at Canadian University Dubai
Alex Davda is business psychologist and client director at Ashridge Business School

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