It’s Sunday night, and that can mean one thing: The Fear. As we approach a new week, even those of us who adore our jobs will no doubt have days where we will all need to vent when we finish our working day. A simple “how was your day?” can be enough to set off a metaphoric stream of fireworks that results in us feeling stressed, drained and unable to switch off for even a few hours. It’s human nature to dwell on the negative, but a new study is suggesting that you might be all the better for channelling your energies into positive thoughts when it comes to your working environment, thus leading to greater job satisfaction.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, a trio of researchers proposed an alternative, called the ‘Three Good Things’ intervention, something they said was typically used to improve the moods of the mildly depressed. Summarising their research, which was published in the Journal Academy of Management, the researchers, led by Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida, wrote that they tried a version of this for three weeks with a group that usually does have some real, actual problems to complain about: nurses and other employees at an outpatient family-practice clinic. That’s not to discount any other jobs, but these particular employees were used for the purpose of the research.
“What most people don’t realise is that positive experiences — even small ones — provide you with valuable resources that can be used to reduce stress, including physical symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension. They make it easier for you to detach yourself from work at the end of the day,” they explained.
Their research worked like this: after work, for just five to ten minutes, the participants were to write about the good things, however big or small, that happened to them that day. The responses ranged from the mundane (Woo, it’s Friday!) to the more substantial, like the nurse for example, who said she received a compliment from a doctor and was was proud of herself for knowing exactly what to do for a patient who had a seizure. Following the three-week period, their self-reported stress levels were lower than when they’d started, and they also told the researchers that they had an easier time detaching from work at the end of the day.
Sharing positive events with others creates connections between people and bonds them with one another, further reducing evening stress.
Brief as the research was, those who conducted the study made valid points as to why focusing on the positive little things really can make a big difference to your working day and general career outlook: “This simple practice — writing about three good things that happened — creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives,” the researchers continued.
“It can also create a feedback loop that enhances its impact: we believe that people who reflect on good things that happened during the day are more likely to share those things with family and friends. Sharing positive events with others creates connections between people and bonds them with one another, further reducing evening stress. Ultimately, this also improves sleep, which our ongoing research suggests leads to greater alertness and better mood — which in turn leads to more positive things happening the next day, and further job satisfaction and happiness.”
It is unlikely that people will stop talking about negative experiences at work, but they maintain (with good reason) that intentionally focusing on positive events can provide that essential work balance. “We don’t advocate putting up happy posters, but companies can take steps to intelligently help people notice and share positive experiences, which could benefit everybody,” they concluded.
Research has indicated that being negative at work will drain your mental energy and it’s true. It takes a hell of a lot more energy to focus on bad thoughts over good ones, and you’d be surprised at the results that come from yielding positive energy – both for yourself and those around you.
Something to think on as you start your working week tomorrow.