“Happiness is a choice,” Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, tells Amy Gallo of Harvard Business Review.
Gallo writes about ways that you can deal effectively with a negative situation at work, stressing that you must focus on the positive things that are going on as well. Achor says research has found you have good reason to be positive at work: Positive people are 30% more productive, 40% more likely to be promoted, and have 23% fewer stress-related health problems.
As the leader, you have an additional incentive to be positive, because your mood sets the tone for the office. “Your negative emotions spread like wildfire,” Annie McKee, co-author of Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, tells HBR. “It’s worth changing your mood, not just to make your day more pleasant and productive but to spare those around you.”
Here’s how to be aware of negative shifts in your mood and fight them as effectively as possible.
1. Look for the Signs
“We have early warning signals that tell us that our resilience is dwindling,” says McKee. If you notice you’ve become less patient over the course of the day, take a second to pinpoint what’s bothering you. Once you find out the impetus of your negative mood, you can start working on a solution.
2. Jump to Action
While many people advise thinking of three things you’re grateful for, that’s not very practical when you’re in a lousy mood. Feigning positivity might actually make you dive down deeper into negativity. Instead, Achor suggests doing one thing that you have been putting off, or paying someone a kind gesture. “Your brain records a victory,” he says, which can improve your outlook.
3. Change Your Hair, Change Your Life
Small changes can lift a bad mood. As Thomas Pynchon wrote in his 2009 book Inherent Vice, “Can’t say it often enough—change your hair, change your life.” Get up from your desk and work from a bench in a park for an hour. Go for a walk. “The key is to put yourself in a different physical location,” McKee advises.
4. Be Realistic
A bad day can get worse if you start out with unrealistic expectations. “If I expect my flight to be canceled and it’s only three hours delayed, then I’m going to be thrilled,” Achor says. “But if I expect it to be on time and then it’s delayed, then I’m going to be upset.” If you start the day with a impossible to-do list, you’ll spiral downward before noon. Just tick off a few attainable goals instead.
5. Learn From the Bad
Do a post-mortem when you have a bad day. How did you start the day? What was on your to-do list? How did you handle spilled-milk situations? Take time to reflect on your triggers, McKee says. If you have a string of bad days, find the theme running through. If you work long hours and don’t stop for lunch, try taking a break to eat midday and make it home for dinner. Achor says engagement and productivity decrease sharply when you work over 55 hours a week. At the end of the day, work is always guaranteed to be there, but your mental and physical well-being is not.
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