It’s easy to think our state of mind is largely governed by what the day decides to throw at us. Something good or bad happens, and we react. But good and bad is obviously subjective.
We all know people who just seem to be able to see the brighter side of things. They can be quite annoying, these perpetually ‘half glass full’ kind of folk.
But here’s the secret, the optimistic perspective isn’t an inherited gene. It’s something we can all cultivate and develop ourselves through a simple change of perspective.
We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can be 100% in control of the reaction we have to it. Think about it that idea again. Although much of what life throws at us is out of control, the way we react to it isn’t.
When you get your head around that way of thinking, you realise what a huge and profound revelation it is. Not only can a more positive mind impact our personal lives, it can also transform our working lives, too.
So, how do we turn ourselves into more positive, happier human beings?
THE QUEST TO BE HAPPY
Throughout life, we set ourselves constant goals and challenges to be ticked off. We live in the belief that once we’ve hit that sales target, got the big promotion or finally moved into that quaint country cottage we’ve been eyeing up for years, a form of happiness will inevitably follow.
At first glance, that sounds perfectly logical. We have a dream, we achieve it, life feels that bit better. But things are a bit more complex that.
In an inspiring and hilarious Ted talk, Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor explains how many of us make a crucial mistake in the quest for happiness.
According to Achor, the way we imagine we’ll feel when we achieve a long-term objective is far different to the way we actually feel. He explains the reason for that shift in perspective is down to a very simple reason.
“Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”
So, we invest in what we believe is the rock solid premise that success equals happiness. In reality, we end up constantly pushing happiness into a future we never actually reach.
Why we do we keep falling for this flawed approach? Perhaps it’s because we live in a world that incentivises and rewards those who strive for ever greater achievement.
What is clear is that this way of living doesn’t pay off for us in the long run. But the good news is there’s an easier and healthier way to feel positive about ourselves. And it isn’t tied up with our future plans. It’s available to us right here in the present moment.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING MORE POSITIVE
Aside from the general feel good factor that comes from being a more positive person, there are also some very specific advantages to be gained that can hugely improve our lives at home and in the office.
Shawn Achor’s research explains that when our brains are in state of positivity we benefit from what he calls “a happiness advantage,” which essentially involves our brain moving into a higher gear. Achor describes this advantage in terms of how effective it can be in the workplace,
“…we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”
When we’re more positive, we’re also more likely to spot potential opportunities – because our brains are constantly primed to look for them.
For anyone who manages a team of people, having a sunnier outlook on life not only has the power to improve your own performance but the performance of everyone who works for you, too. You’ll be more likely to identify and vocalise the value others bring and encourage more often. And there’s a higher chance you’ll have the desire and patience to nurture potential and bring out the best in people.
You’ll also notice how your own optimistic energy rubs off on others in a more general sense. Positive thinking, just like negative thinking, is infectious. Your attitude, actions and outlook will set an example for others – helping to cultivate a general culture of positivity.
When people are happier at work, not only does productivity increase but creativity levels are improved, loyalty to the company goes up and absentee rates go down.
With all those benefits in mind, you might be wondering what steps you can take to become a more positive, happier person.
REWIRING YOU BRAIN FOR POSITIVITY
There are some easy but powerful ways you can boost your sense of positivity here and now.
While it takes commitment, it’s genuinely possible to change the way your brain responds to the world to have a brighter outlook. Here are just some of the methods you can employ:
- Grab some exercise: Not only does it reduce feelings of stress and anxietybut even a small amount of exercise can increase your confidence levels.Dopamine – the brain’s happy chemical, is also released after a workout, giving you a palpable and virtually instant mood boost.
- Meditation: By consistently taking just 10 minutes out each day, meditation has the power to change the way you react to stressful and challenging situations. In fact, studies have shown certain forms of meditation can physically alter areas of the brain, leading to reductions in anxiety and boosting our mood.
- Be generous: The benefits of generosity are backed by well-documented research. Giving makes you feel good. In fact, the act of giving has been shown to be more psychologically rewarding than being on the receiving end of a reward or good fortune. Put simply, by engaging in selfless acts you stand to boost your general sense of happiness.
CONCLUSION – THE POWER OF POSITIVITY
Ultimately, when you understand positivity is a choice and appreciate its incredible power, you begin to see how different the world can begin to look.