Friday 29 April 2022

Practising the Three Principles of Positivity at work

There may be times when you struggle to focus your attention on the positive aspects of your life, especially when everything around you appears to be falling apart. And it can be even more frustrating when other people are telling you to think positively but you just can’t look on the bright side. The good news is, there are certain principles that you can put into practice that will, over time, help you to maintain a positive outlook.

The human brain is extremely complex and pretty amazing at managing our moods. Known as the 'happy hormones', endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin can all help us to feel good, and by practising the Three Principles of Positivity, we can improve our mood and mental wellbeing. Research available in the National Library of Medicine suggests that cortisol, oxytocin and adrenaline have a fundamental role in happiness and mood regulation.

What are the Three Principles of Positivity?

1. Positive thought

Each of our thoughts generates activity in our brain, and this can also impact our physical state and response. For example, if you are worrying about a situation, you might start to feel the effects of anxiety in your body with symptoms such as butterflies in the stomach, a racing heart, shakiness or nausea. These symptoms are created as the negative thoughts in your brain tell your body how to react. Similarly, if we consciously change our thoughts to something more positive, our brain releases serotonin and we will feel happier and more confident.

It can take time and practise to train your brain but once you start to master the art of positive thought, you will begin to notice your change in mood.

Ways to practise positive thinking at work:
  • Make a list of all the positive tasks you have achieved each day.
  • Remind yourself of your value at work and how you contribute to the company.
  • When you don’t achieve your goals at work, make a note of everything that you learned from your experience and embrace the lessons so you can improve next time.

2. Positive action

Just as positive thinking can produce happy hormones in the brain, so can taking positive action. By doing things that get positive results, our body produces dopamine which can make us feel good and increase our levels of motivation.

Ways to practice positive action at work:
  • Listen to music that makes you feel good, especially when you’re undertaking a challenging task as this can motivate you and help you achieve your goals. 
  • Go for a walk outside during breaks as this will release serotonin and endorphins to make you feel good.
  • Ensure you have good sleeping patterns by going to bed and waking at similar times each day. By receiving the correct amount of sleep, you’re enabling your brain to recuperate and your serotonin levels to regulate. 

3. Positive interaction

Our relationships with people both inside and outside of work are really important to our mental wellbeing. In order to feel self-confident and mentally strong enough to cope with stressful situations, we need a good support network around us. Positive interaction can also prevent us from feeling loneliness, which can have a negative effect on our mental health.

Ways to practice positive interaction at work:
  • Take part in work-related social activities to strengthen relationships with colleagues.
  • Being kind to people and helping others will release oxytocin and serotonin and make you feel good, as well as making others feel happy too.
  • If you work from home or don’t spend much time around your work colleagues, try to stay connected by email, social media, or telephone. As humans, we often crave interaction and by positively interacting with our work colleagues, we produce oxytocin which helps us cope with stressful situations.

Thursday 21 April 2022

The Importance of Taking Time off Work

Have you ever found yourself working through your lunch breaks or too afraid to take time off because the stress of catching up when you return to work can be so overwhelming? Often, we avoid taking time off because we feel as though we have to do twice as much work in the run-up to our holiday to ensure we’ve tied up any loose ends. However, it is vital for our mental and physical wellbeing that we regularly take a break from our job.

Although the human brain is capable of doing many wonderful things, it isn’t designed to be regularly overworked. This kind of constant pressure can be extremely damaging to both our mental and physical state. A study published by the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology showed that taking a relaxing or social break from work can help the mind to recover and can positively impact mood.

The effects of an overworked mind

  • Lack of focus, concentration and memory
  • Poor decision making
  • Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Mental and physical exhaustion

It’s important that we regularly ‘switch off’ our brains to maintain a healthy mind and refuel our levels of cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. All these hormones play a significant part in regulating our mood and make us more able to deal with stress.

Benefits of taking time off work

A happier, more self-confident and balanced you

The saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is certainly true. When we don’t take time to do the things that we enjoy and don’t have a healthy work–life balance, we can lose our sense of identity and it can also affect our personal relationships with friends and family. By taking time off to socialise, play a sport or enjoy a hobby, you will generally feel happier, and it can also boost your self-confidence and sense of belonging.

Increased cognitive function

Taking time off to rest our brain is integral to improving cognitive health so that we are better equipped to make decisions, concentrate and focus on any task at hand.

Improved mental resilience

When our brains are under ongoing pressure, it affects our ability to cope with stressful situations, which in turn can cause even more stress. By taking time off work to recuperate and regenerate our minds, we are able to deal with day-to-day stresses more effectively.

Increased productivity

Being overworked and mentally exhausted increases our levels of cortisol which can impact our motivation and productivity. A holiday away from the office either just relaxing or doing activities that we love can balance out our cortisol levels and boost our motivation, resulting in increased productivity.

Promoting time off

Time off work doesn’t necessarily mean going on a long holiday, it also means resting outside of your working hours, whether that’s in the evening when you’re at home, at weekends or even in your lunch break. Managers have a duty to look after their employees’ wellbeing and should encourage annual leave and regular work breaks to avoid work-related mental health issues and total burnout. Not only does this benefit the individual but it also creates a better working environment where everyone can perform to their full potential.

For more on holidays and the benefits of taking a break from work, read this article on vacation research  written by work and organisational psychologist Jessica Bloom and published in 'The Psychologist'  >