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Three ways to end the year off on a positive note

Three ways to end the year off on a positive note

The end of the year is fast approaching and with that, there comes the inevitable reflection on how 2018 has treated us individually as well as how we have fared in our work. It is easy at this time to look at what has not gone well or how we didn’t achieve everything we set out to accomplish. Negativity bias is a part of our survival instinct – we tend to focus on threats to our well-being rather than see the bigger picture of all that we have done. Negativity bias, while helping to protect us from harm, also limits our ability to feel satisfied and grateful for what is positive in our lives.

As social beings, another feature of our human programming is that we compare ourselves to others, using what they have achieved as a benchmark for our own accomplishments. While this social comparison serves to keep us in line and on par with others, it can also leave us feeling self-critical and even depressed.

It is at this crucial time of year, where employee morale can drop, exhaustion is setting in and people are naturally reflecting on their year, that we employ helpful and positive strategies to assist our organisations to find satisfaction and validation.

Positive Psychology aims to provide practical and effective strategies to manage our emotions and leverage our thoughts towards a sense of well-being and happiness. In this article, we will share a few key strategies that you can use in your organisation.

Three ways to end the year off in the positive

1) Three good things

As mentioned above, negativity bias is our brain’s way of identifying threats to our well-being. However, in this day and age, not all negatives are harmful to our survival, so we need to learn ways of countering this natural tendency to home in on what has gone wrong. A simple but highly effective strategy to help balance out our negativity bias is the exercise of three good things.

Take your team through a reflective exercise where they list all their failures or setbacks for the year. This will leave them feeling drained and often depressed – have them reflect on this feeling. The second part of the exercise is to couple every one of these negatives with three positive experiences they have had in the year and why they happened. These can be simple or grand macro level achievements they have had.

It has been shown that for every one negative we need three positives to balance our emotional experience; this is called the positivity ratio (Fredrickson, 2013). Once these have been listed, the team can share and reflect together. This exercise can be done collectively or individually and has many proven benefits for your team, including increased positive emotions, reduced depression and an increase in their sense of gratitude and appreciation.

2) A growth mindset

A growth mindset is one of your organisation’s biggest assets. To be able to review our challenges by the lessons we have learnt and how they contribute to our progress, rather than viewing them as an indicator of who we are and how we are limited. A growth mindset allows us to be more resilient and breeds optimism and hope for the future. If 2018 has been a challenging year for you, which is true for most organisations, this shift in thinking can provide a much-needed breath of fresh air.

The best way to practice learning goal orientation is to review the goals set as an organisation as well as by each individual at the start of the year. While reflecting on each goal, answer the following questions:

1) How did you achieve this goal?
2) What were the obstacles you experienced in reaching this goal?
3) What lessons have you learnt in the process?
4) How does this change the way you will approach goals in the future?
5) What steps could you take to ensure you have better success?

This exercise is a valuable way for your team to reflect in a constructive way. Inevitably there will have been setbacks or obstacles to achieving your collective and individual goals. However, learning to view them as lessons towards personal and professional growth will assist your team to feel a greater sense of accomplishment and optimism as well as help them set constructive learning goals for 2019.

A growth mindset is also an effective strategy to empower your team to overcome their social comparisons, as reviewing their lessons on an individual level they are being validated for their personal growth and development. This provides a buffer to the effects of comparing oneself to others.

3) Gratitude

Gratitude is a concept which has received a lot of attention in recent years. This is because of its simple and yet profound effects on our sense of overall well-being, life satisfaction and for its ability to boost positive relationship building. Finding ways to be grateful in the workplace can have many effects on employee morale and help build healthier and happier teams.

Perhaps one of the simplest gratitude exercises you can practice at the end of the year is a written Naikan Reflection (developed by Yoshimito Ishin a businessman and devout Jodo Shinshu Buddhist). Ask your team to reflect on the following questions:

1) What have I received from (person x)?
2) What have I given to (person x)?                                                                   
3) What troubles and difficulties have I caused to (person x)?

Have the team reflected on these questions, write their responses and then share with the group. This exercise, while challenging, helps people to become aware of the resources and opportunities they have been afforded as well as to help them reflect on whether their actions have contributed positively or negatively to the organisation. You can tailor the questions to be more specific if necessary.

“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.”
– Dr. Robert Holden (“Britain’s foremost expert on happiness”)

In conclusion:

At the end of the year we automatically go through a reflective process, however, the way in which we reflect on what has happened in the year can affect our well-being and satisfaction. Positive Psychology has developed some simple and powerful tools to help overcome our negativity bias, social comparisons and negative emotions.

By reflecting with a positivity ratio, developing a growth mindset and cultivating gratitude, we can not only counter the end of year exhaustion but promote team morale, satisfaction and optimism. Whether you practice these at your next few meetings, or at your end of year function, all three of these strategies can help give your team the boost they need to end 2018 in the positive and start 2019 off with a bang. We wish you a healthy and reflective period ahead.

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

The Foundation and Benefits of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology is a word that is slowly filtering through into our work, social and personal lives. However, few people know what it is, where it originated, and why it has become such a much-talked-about concept. People often think that Positive Psychology is a new trend, industry or hype that has recently emerged. But if you trace its roots, you’ll find that it goes as far back as 400 BC to the ancient Greek times where Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics spoke about the importance of human happiness, virtues, fulfilling one’s potential, and living ethically. Since then, the idea of happiness has been a common thread through the eras of the Stoics, Christianity, Renaissance, Existentialist philosophers, right up to the beginning of the 21st century before WWI after which it lost its direction for a while.

Before the outbreak of WWI, the science of Positive Psychology had three distinct intentions:

  1. to cure mental illness.
  2. to make people happier.
  3. to study geniuses and highly talented people.

So, Positive Psychology already had an umbrella function back then, but with the outbreak of the war psychology got stuck on focusing on mental illness and spent little time on mental health. The reason for this was twofold: The war produced many war veterans and family members who needed to be treated and cured of the gruesome traumas, and institutions provided sponsorship funding for curing mental diseases. The result was that for 50 years psychology has honed in on curing mental illnesses, and this pathology has taken its toll on society and human science. This changed in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, who at the time was the President of the American Psychology Association, rebirthed the concept of balanced positive living, fulfilling one’s potential and having meaning and purpose in life. Seligman was purely bringing to light what past philosophers and scientists such as Freud, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Maslow and Rodgers had been working on for decades. In a nutshell, one could say that Positive Psychology has a short history but a long past.

 

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning. It hones in on what is right about people by uncovering their strengths and promoting positive thriving. It focuses on factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive such as: building positive emotions, optimising character strengths, setting meaningful goals, being mindful and present in life activities, nurturing trusting and deep relationships, developing a growth learning mindset, and cultivating resilience strategies.

So, if Positive Psychology is “happiology” that only focuses on the optimistic side of life, especially with stats relating to the high levels of depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health challenges, is it a naïve unrealistic science? No, it’s not. Positive Psychology doesn’t deny or ignore the existence of negative emotions, feelings, situations or life events. It accepts and embraces them as being a normal part of life. However, what it does do is make individuals aware that they are not living from their optimal level, and then gives them practical tools and resources to pull them out of a downward slope quicker. Positive Psychology is an applied science that offers people balance to their previous skewed weakness or disease-orientated approach. It’s a holistic science that explores people’s strengths alongside their weaknesses. As it’s a science, the activities and exercises provided have undergone rigorous scientific testing and peer reviews. It isn’t self-help which is a critical distinguishing point; what is provided works. As much as Positive Psychology is about scientific theories, models and practical exercises, it is also about transformation and personal development. It has the ability to grow people to reach their level of optimal flourishing; a level very few people have experienced, but one each and every one can and has the right to.

 

Positive Psychology versus Traditional Psychology

Positive Psychology and traditional psychology complement each other and are not in competition with one another. They simply have two different focal points which are both extremely necessary and needed in the modern world. Traditional psychology focuses on mental illnesses, commonly referred to as the disease model of what is wrong with a person, and aims to remediate the situation. Positive Psychology tries to work from the approach and build on what is strong.

In the words of Abraham Maslow, “The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side; it has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological height. It is as if psychology has voluntarily restricted itself to only half its rightful jurisdiction, and that the darker, meaner half.”

Bringing the two psychologies together allows us to work with people in a complete and holistic manner. Another main distinguishing point is that traditional psychology is responsible for making a person function and Positive Psychology to make a person flourish – it’s like working with minus and plus signs. Both psychologies complement each other and a person can successfully engage with both modalities at the same time.

 

The Benefits of Positive Psychology

Now that you have some background on the roots and definition of Positive Psychology, let’s explore why this concept has become invaluable to our life. Positive Psychology, otherwise known as “happiness science”, has the following benefits:

  • It teaches us to shift our perspective from an overly negative bias to a balanced viewpoint.
  • It is present-orientated living in the here and now.
  • It instils an open-mindset of continuous learning and development.
  • It assists us to be more grateful and mindful of our surroundings and activities, thereby removing us from the debilitating autopilot mode.
  • It deepens our ability to savour positive life experiences.
  • It helps us to build trusting and meaningful relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
  • It teaches us to have more positive emotions and moods than negative ones.
  • It opens our hearts to volunteer work and acts of kindness.
  • It helps us to find meaning and purpose in tasks and activities.
  • It allows us to be engaged and fully participate in life.
  • It enhances our social and emotional intelligence.
  • It strengthens and develops neurons through the process of neuroplasticity.
  • It assists us to use our character strengths more often.

The end result is that we don’t overthink things, are able to bounce back from adverse daily situations, and it enhances our overall well-being. From a work perspective, we become more productive, find meaning in tasks through having flow moments, experience job satisfaction and cope better with stress, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and frustration.

The best news is that happiness drives success and not the other way around. Becoming happier in life is a journey, not an outcome to ever accomplish, so it’s a path that can be learned and practised by everybody.

In our fast-moving world, Positive Psychology and happiness are not things to be ignored, but rather very important tools that can help you to flourish, to manage your life better, to act as a buffer against physical or mental illness, and to lead the authentic life you are born to lead.

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

Eight Unknown Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.

Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:

  • High absenteeism
  • Stress-related health conditions
  • Reduced productivity
  • Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
  • Politics and internal conflicts
  • High levels of dissatisfaction

These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:

  • High staff turnover
  • Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
  • Low staff morale and team unity
  • Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
  • Burnout

So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.

But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?

In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.

Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture

  • Value Integrity

It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?

Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.

  • A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture

While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.

  • Commitment to Excellence

A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?

  • Open and Honest Communication

Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.

  • Collaboration and Support

A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.

  • A Sense of Humour

“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”

In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?

  • Flexibility

Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.

  • Emphasis on environment, family and health

In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.

Take Home Message

There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.

If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.

We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to info@4seeds.co.za and we’ll be happy to get involved.

The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!

Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.

To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.

  1. Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
  2. Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
  3. Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
  4. Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.

The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.

Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/

Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.

7 Ways A Kindness Company Culture Can Boost Your Bottom Line

7 Ways A Kindness Company Culture Can Boost Your Bottom Line

Have you ever stopped to wonder what your company culture is centred around?

The topic of kindness at work would probably be considered controversial and unnecessary for a traditional organisation. However, as our need for happiness and satisfaction at work grows, kindness becomes a valuable and inexpensive method to change your company culture and boost your bottom line.

While in the past kindness may have been perceived as weakness, research is growing in support of the positive impact that a kindness company culture can have not only on your employees, but on your company’s success.

A primary concern for most companies in today’s economy is to ensure a secure bottom line, and to stabilise its workforce to guarantee consistent and sustainable income. And while this is a necessary consideration for any business to survive, the need for healthy and happy employees is imperative for any business to thrive. We know that a people focus builds profits, and while the tendency may be to lead the way we were led, if we are to create impactful and happy organisations we need to learn a new set of skills. Kindness, among other things such as resilience, engagement and purpose, plays a key role in building positive, productive workplaces.

For those of us who have experienced rudeness, pettiness or have been the butt of an office joke, the value of kindness is obvious. However, a growing body of research is showing some interesting and important findings about why a kindness culture in your workplace will boost productivity and serve your bottom line. Here are some of the findings:

  1. Kindness boosts customer satisfaction and sales

Customers want to be treated with respect, and if they have a negative experience with your staff they are likely to share their experience with others, and if you’re unlucky on social media. In today’s economy it is genuine kindness that can give your company the competitive edge as it encourages people to return and spread the word about your business.

     2. Only 10% of people say thank you at work

This statistic, while true, is also terrifying and begs the following questions: Do you thank your staff for their efforts? Do you make an effort to show appreciation for even the small roles that people play in keeping your company going? It is a fundamental human need to be respected and held in high esteem. We want to belong, and when we are validated for our efforts we begin to build positive relationships. So, next time someone brings you a coffee, or cleans your office, be sure to say thank you – it costs nothing!

    3. Kindness increases positive relationships in the workplace

Kindness in the workplace can be as simple as saying thank you, holding the door for somebody, or offering to assist a stressed colleague. However, it can be translated into even more beneficial behaviours such as the sharing of information. A company culture that encourages people to share resources, information and recognition is the true sign of a kind company culture. Sharing increases productivity, problem solving and creativity, thus producing better products with a greater impact.

    4. Kindness increases inclusion and reduces lawsuits

Sexual harassment, racism, homophobia and other common HR issues are any leader’s biggest nightmare, because on top of affecting the office climate they can have a serious financial and PR impact. Breeding a company culture of kind words, non-judgemental listening, and sharing is a sure-fire way to reduce these incidences. A company culture that values respect above bias, holds all employees in esteem and holds rude people accountable, sets a strong foundation on which to build inclusion and diversity, thus breaking down harmful stereotypes and the punishable behaviours associated with it.

   5. Kindness is contagious

We already know the power of a smile and how when someone smiles at us we share it with others. The same works for acts of kindness. When someone does even a small act of kindness we want to repay this kindness either to that person or to others. Random acts of kindness have a powerful impact on our happiness levels because it feels good to do good. Encouraging this company culture of small acts of kindness in the form of volunteering time, offering coffee or helping a colleague are a few small ways for you to start boosting kindness in your company and in turn grow the happiness levels of your team and the individuals which keep it going. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

   6. A kindness company culture reduces absenteeism

A recent study into the cost of absenteeism because of stress-related conditions amounts to over £6.5 billion a year. Stress is therefore the number one biggest cause of absenteeism and loss of productivity to companies worldwide. It would be completely absurd to ignore the impact of stress on your employees as it has a direct impact on your bottom line.

Kindness is a small but effective first step to reducing stress in the workplace. As already mentioned, when there is a kindness company culture people are more willing to help each other, to share information which can ease another’s stress, and build positive relationships which reduce social anxiety and stress related to belonging to a team. Kindness is therefore a highly cost-effective strategy to reduce stress levels and combat the multitude of related conditions which are rising as a result.

   7. Kindness boosts attention and productivity

Research shows that when we are stressed or unhappy our attention is compromised. A good example is to consider how being tired affects your concentration, problem-solving ability, mistake making and time taken to complete a task. The same is true for unhappiness; it drains our cognitive capacity and in turn our quality and quantity of work output. As previously mentioned, kindness boosts well-being and overall happiness within an organisation which has a direct effect on the ability of your staff to achieve amazing results in a shorter time.

Take Home Message

There is a quote by the Dalai Lama that seems poignant to share at this time.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Kindness is perhaps the most underrated practice that you can use to leverage the best from your employees and build a sustainable income. Kindness impacts each individual, the relationships they build and the customers they serve. It is therefore in the best interests of every company hoping to stay relevant and competitive to invest time in building a kindness company culture.

Please share this article with anybody you feel would benefit. Consider this your act of kindness for the day, as sometimes even the kindest people you know need to have their passion reignited.

The Importance of Recovering After a Work Day to Make Employees Happy

The Importance of Recovering After a Work Day to Make Employees Happy

Encouraging recovery can make employees happy, create a more productive work environment and ultimately improve staff retention

Want to make your employees happy? Well then it’s important to take two minutes to read this article.. In the last decade the term ‘work-life’ balance has become very popular especially for those talking about ensuring happy employees in the workplace. Everyone strives towards it, are told how important it is, and does their best  to figure out what mechanisms work. There is no one-size-fits-all for all employees though. Calling it work-life balance appears paradoxical, almost like two opposing poles; work is life and life is work. Perhaps it’s about balancing life with its various domains. The term ‘work-life balance’ per se has no standard definition and means different things to different people. So, how do we begin to engage with work-life balance with so many unknown variables?

 

An aspect of work-life balance that I’ll write about, as it’s frequently overlooked or ignored, is the concept of recovery during and after work. Often, we associate recovery as the process of getting healthy after an illness, and link it to the opposite of fatigue or burnout. But we seldom view recovery as a much-needed process during a working day as well as part of recuperating from a full day’s work. Professor Stevan E. Hobfoll, from the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center in America defines recovery as the replenishment of mental and physiological resources used for the external demands placed on us.

In a work environment we experience two types of fatigue:

  • Physical fatigue – is associated with hard labour and muscular aches where appropriate rest time during the day is often adequate to rejuvenate the body.
  • Mental fatigue – is linked to cognitive thinking, planning, problem solving and attending meetings. A short rest period, as would be adequate in physical fatigue, is not enough here.

And that is where the challenge begins. We need longer and more frequent breaks in the mental fatigue mode to uphold our stamina and energy, but seldom take the necessary breaks.

Short breaks can lead to more motivated employees a more productive team and a happy workplace.

Furthermore, we are able to distinguish between internal and external recovery. Internal recovery refers to the short, scheduled breaks we take between work tasks to shift our attention or even purposefully distract us. We recognise that our mental stamina is temporarily depleted and we shift tasks, take short breaks, chat with colleagues or engage in a completely different mental activity. The short breaks delay our fatigue but are not enough to recover from the day’s mental fatigue. External recovery provides us with that much-needed rest and restoration time between working days, weekends, pubic holidays and holiday time. Working after hours cancels out our entire recovery time, and we go to work the next day, maybe with a reduced work load and fewer emails in our inbox, but with lower energy, and reduced performance and productivity levels.

Healthy Employees are Happy Employees

From a health point of view, getting enough rest and recovery time reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, fatigue and burnout. That being said, activities that positively influence and assist with the recovery process are sports and physical activities, connecting with friends, performing household activities and caring for your children. The sports and physical activities are shown to have the most significant effect, which is understandable because of the additional adrenalin and happy hormones that we feel afterwards. But there is more to why sports and physical activities win first prize, and that is because our brain can’t engage in the activity and simultaneously ruminate over a work situation. It’s one or the other which is fantastic for our brain to be able to get some forced downtime.

Allowing your employees to get into a rhythm will improve team motivation and employee happiness.

The final thing that I want to write about is the relevance of our circadian rhythm, our biological body clock. By nature some of us are early morning risers, while others are night owls and peak later during the day. Working with our biological energy system influences our entire human system from our hormones, body temperature, and sleep patterns, to our insulin and glucose cycle and moods and emotions. In short, it determines when we are physically and psychologically at our best. Unfortunately, working life doesn’t always allow us to work predominantly from our best performance state, and we often have to demonstrate peak performance when our body isn’t in that mode. We’ll need extra energy to think harder, stay alert, pay attention to detail and remain connected with people, with the end result that in the evening our energy is more depleted than normal. Our brains have used up all the energy possible, and we need to engage in additional recovery, rest and restoration time to return to a homeostatic balanced mode. Recommended techniques are for you to engage in down-time practises such as yoga, meditation or reading, and refraining from any stimulating activities.

By now you may have noticed that your recovery processes during the day and after work are actually ongoing. They require your continuous conscious and self-regulated attention. The downside to not recovering enough is that ruminating thoughts, negative emotions, disturbed attention span, fatigue and distorted sleep creep into our lives. Our health and overall well-being levels drop severely. I hope that with this article you are inspired to review and amend, where necessary, your recovery process between work days.

Want to read more about how to make employees happy and motivated? Click Here to find out about 5 Ways to Motivate Employees

References

Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualising stress. American Psychologist, Vol. 44, 513-524.

Zijlstra, F. R., & Sonnentag, S. (2006). After work is done: Psychological perspectives on recovery from work . European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 15(2), 129-138.

Zijlstra, F. R., Cropley, M., & Rydstedt, F. R. (2014). From Recovery to Regulation. An attempt to reconceptualise ‘recovery from work.

Breaking The Taboo Of Touch in The Workplace

Breaking The Taboo Of Touch in The Workplace

Touch in the workplace has long been the topic of much tension, with sexual harassment being a trigger point for legal action and civic concern. This has left many managers feeling that they cannot use touch for fear of causing harm or damaging their relationships with staff. This article aims to lay out the value of using physical touch in the workplace and how when used appropriately it can positively impact company outcomes, improve work relationships and increase employee well-being.

Touch is a basic human need. From the time we are born, touch provides necessary sensory input for our physical, emotional, psychological and social development. This is a known fact; however as we get older, touch becomes a sensitive issue, and our touch anxiety grows. “If I touch them, what will happen if they get the wrong idea, and could I damage this relationship?” is the question playing in the back of our minds. While our need for touch remains fundamental to our sense of connection and support of others, we become more hesitant, which is in turn compounded by the context of the professional environment.

As the world becomes more digital and virtual, many of us are becoming “touch deprived”, and despite our adult touch anxiety, we still have a fundamental need for physical contact. Touch forms part of how we communicate, bond and socialise non-verbally with others. The less often we touch, the less connected we feel which impacts many areas of our health. Within the workplace setting there are many unseen impacts of reduced touch, and hopefully through this article you will feel a greater sense of self-efficacy in using and receiving this powerful communication tool.

Let’s have a look at the nine benefits of physical touch and how they translate into positive workplace outcomes.

The nine reasons why you should be using more touch at work

  • It increases oxytocin

Oxytocin is known as our “cuddle hormone”, though don’t let this put you off. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with human bonding, and when released it can help us develop a sense of safety and trust in one another. Trust is a cultural value of paramount importance in organisations, as it boosts our creativity, innovation, perceived purpose in the organisation’s vision, and in turn leads to greater commitment to the organisation’s objectives for the long-term. So this “soft” hormone has some powerful benefits.

  • Touch counteracts stress

In this world filled with change and uncertainty, stress is a constant; however physical touch can be part of the antidote as research shows that physical touch releases large amounts of dopamine – “our happy hormone”. Dopamine is not only associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, but also plays a major role in increasing feelings of relaxation, and we all know that we are more productive, participatory and pleasant when we are relaxed. Dopamine counters stress and in turn the many modern-day diseases we suffer from as a result.

  • It boosts our immunity

The more touch we receive, the better our immune system is able to perform. This becomes especially relevant when we think of the time and costs incurred from absenteeism. So, the more we touch, the more productive we are and the better able we are to perform our roles without needing to take sick leave.

  • Work needs to satisfy people’s needs

We are living in a new age where people are not only looking for their pay cheque, but also for a sense of purpose and meaning in their job. It is therefore essential that companies provide this in order to retain their staff. As physical touch is one of our fundamental human needs, providing more appropriate touch in the workplace can help to satisfy this need while boosting staff retention.

  • Touch boosts effective interpersonal communication

Touch serves many functions in the workplace from validation (a tap on the back), to interaction management (tapping a shoulder to get attention), persuasion (holding someone’s arm to direct them where we want to go) and celebration (high fives). All of these appropriate uses of touch in the workplace enable healthy non-verbal communication in the office environment, and when missing can influence the effectiveness of our interactions by creating confusion, increasing mistrust and reducing feelings of appreciation.

  • It increases perceived managerial social effectiveness

Touch is related to self-esteem. The higher our feelings of confidence, the more we are able to use touch effectively. In the workplace this can be an area of much deliberation because if touch is used ineffectively it can damage relationships. It is therefore very important for managers to be aware of the needs of their individual staff so that they can meet them appropriately. When this is performed effectively, staff will perceive their manager as being socially effective and hold them in higher esteem. And considering that management is one of the top five reasons why people leave their jobs, this is a valuable method to retain staff.

  • Effective touch is a sign of an authentic leader

We have all heard of the term “authentic leadership” and we have covered this topic in many of our blogs. An authentic leader is one who is totally themselves at work. They show integrity in their actions which means that they hold nothing back from their staff. Touch is a non-verbal indicator of authenticity as although it is unspoken, we are all able to perceive when someone is being ingenuine when we come into physical contact with them. The use of touch is therefore a powerful first step for any manager who wants to become more authentic in their leadership position.

  • Touch boosts likeability

We tend to like people who show that they like us. Touch is a primary non-verbal way of showing care and appreciation and therefore plays a valuable role in increasing how much one is liked in their office environment. This is useful for anybody however for managers in particular, the use of touch can boost managerial likeability. So if you are looking for a way to win over your new team, this could be just the simple solution you are looking for.

  • Touch increases role performance

Research has shown that the amount of touch a supervisor offers their staff impacts their perception of feeling supported, not only by said supervisor but by the organisation as a whole. This has a profound benefit on organisational outcomes because when staff feel they are fully supported by their company, their performance is boosted and they are more likely to perform organisational citizenship behaviours (volunteering for tasks and supporting co-workers).

In conclusion

As you can see from the reasons above, touch plays a powerful role in mediating our workplace relationships and reaching organisational outcomes. From boosting role performance to reducing absenteeism, there are a lot of reasons for using more touch in the workplace. Now before you head off to stroke your co-workers, please be aware. People have different touch profiles and will respond differently to touch. In order to achieve all the benefits that touch has to offer your company, it is therefore necessary to be mindful of each individual and manage your use accordingly. Touch is the oldest and strongest of our human senses; use it wisely and effectively and your organisation is sure to see massive benefits.

Breaking the Touch Taboo: 9 Reasons Why You Should Use Touch in the Workplace

Breaking the Touch Taboo: 9 Reasons Why You Should Use Touch in the Workplace

Touch in the workplace has long been the topic of much tension, with sexual harassment being a trigger point for legal action and civic concern. This has left many managers feeling that they cannot use touch for fear of causing harm or damaging their relationships with staff. This article aims to lay out the value of using physical touch in the workplace and how when used appropriately it can positively impact company outcomes, improve work relationships and increase employee well-being.

Touch is a Basic Human Need

From the time we are born, touch provides necessary sensory input for our physical, emotional, psychological and social development. This is a known fact; however as we get older, touch becomes a sensitive issue, and our touch anxiety grows. “If I touch them, what will happen if they get the wrong idea, and could I damage this relationship?” is the question playing in the back of our minds. While our need for touch remains fundamental to our sense of connection and support of others, we become more hesitant, which is in turn compounded by the context of the professional environment.

As the world becomes more digital and virtual, many of us are becoming “touch deprived”, and despite our adult touch anxiety, we still have a fundamental need for physical contact. Touch forms part of how we communicate, bond and socialise non-verbally with others. The less often we touch, the less connected we feel which impacts many areas of our health. Within the workplace setting there are many unseen impacts of reduced touch, and hopefully, through this article, you will feel a greater sense of self-efficacy in using and receiving this powerful communication tool.

Let’s have a look at the nine benefits of physical touch and how they translate into positive workplace outcomes.

The Nine Reasons Why You Should be Using More Touch at Work

1) It increases Oxytocin

Oxytocin is known as our “cuddle hormone”, though don’t let this put you off. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with human bonding, and when released it can help us develop a sense of safety and trust in one another. Trust is a cultural value of paramount importance in organisations, as it boosts our creativity, innovation, perceived purpose in the organisation’s vision, and in turn leads to greater commitment to the organisation’s objectives for the long-term. So this “soft” hormone has some powerful benefits.

2) Touch Counteracts Stress

In this world filled with change and uncertainty, stress is a constant; however physical touch can be part of the antidote as research shows that physical touch releases large amounts of dopamine – “our happy hormone”. Dopamine is not only associated with feelings of happiness and well-being, but also plays a major role in increasing feelings of relaxation, and we all know that we are more productive, participatory and pleasant when we are relaxed. Dopamine counters stress and in turn the many modern-day diseases we suffer from as a result.

3) It Boosts our Immunity

The more touch we receive, the better our immune system is able to perform. This becomes especially relevant when we think of the time and costs incurred from absenteeism. So, the more we touch, the more productive we are and the better able we are to perform our roles without needing to take sick leave.

4) Work Needs to Satisfy People’s Needs

We are living in a new age where people are not only looking for their pay cheque, but also for a sense of purpose and meaning in their job. It is therefore essential that companies provide this in order to retain their staff. As physical touch is one of our fundamental human needs, providing more appropriate touch in the workplace can help to satisfy this need while boosting staff retention.

5) Touch Boosts Effective Interpersonal Communication

Touch serves many functions in the workplace from validation (a tap on the back), to interaction management (tapping a shoulder to get attention), persuasion (holding someone’s arm to direct them where we want to go) and celebration (high fives). All of these appropriate uses of touch in the workplace enable healthy non-verbal communication in the office environment, and when missing can influence the effectiveness of our interactions by creating confusion, increasing mistrust and reducing feelings of appreciation.

6) It Increases Perceived Managerial Social Effectiveness

Touch is related to self-esteem. The higher our feelings of confidence, the more we are able to use touch effectively. In the workplace this can be an area of much deliberation because if touch is used ineffectively it can damage relationships. It is therefore very important for managers to be aware of the needs of their individual staff so that they can meet them appropriately. When this is performed effectively, staff will perceive their manager as being socially effective and hold them in higher esteem. And considering that management is one of the top five reasons why people leave their jobs, this is a valuable method to retain staff.

7) Effective Touch is a Sign of an Authentic Leader

We have all heard of the term “authentic leadership” and we have covered this topic in many of our blogs. An authentic leader is one who is totally themselves at work. They show integrity in their actions which means that they hold nothing back from their staff. Touch is a non-verbal indicator of authenticity as although it is unspoken, we are all able to perceive when someone is being ingenuine when we come into physical contact with them. The use of touch is therefore a powerful first step for any manager who wants to become more authentic in their leadership position.

8) Touch Boosts Likeability

We tend to like people who show that they like us. Touch is a primary non-verbal way of showing care and appreciation and therefore plays a valuable role in increasing how much one is liked in their office environment. This is useful for anybody however for managers in particular, the use of touch can boost managerial likeability. So if you are looking for a way to win over your new team, this could be just the simple solution you are looking for.

9) Touch Increases Role Performance

Research has shown that the amount of touch a supervisor offers their staff impacts their perception of feeling supported, not only by said supervisor but by the organisation as a whole. This has a profound benefit on organisational outcomes because when staff feel they are fully supported by their company, their performance is boosted and they are more likely to perform organisational citizenship behaviours (volunteering for tasks and supporting co-workers).

In Conclusion

As you can see from the reasons above, touch plays a powerful role in mediating our workplace relationships and reaching organisational outcomes. From boosting role performance to reducing absenteeism, there are a lot of reasons for using more touch in the workplace. Now before you head off to stroke your co-workers, please be aware. People have different touch profiles and will respond differently to touch. In order to achieve all the benefits that touch has to offer your company, it is, therefore, necessary to be mindful of each individual and manage your use accordingly. Touch is the oldest and strongest of our human senses; use it wisely and effectively and your organisation is sure to see massive benefits.

 

8 Feminine Values You Need in the Workplace

8 Feminine Values You Need in the Workplace

We know that times are changing. From being brazen in our industrial pursuits, there is now a growing awareness for the environment and the impact we have on the earth. We see this shift in our attention within the workplace too; from more dogmatic, hierarchical frameworks, we’re now moving into a more flexible, non-linear organisational structure. And along with these changes, we’re seeing a change in the way we work, interact and innovate.

Without wanting to disregard any other reasons, we believe this shift is primarily because of a movement from a patriarchal system to a more matriarchal approach. We’re speaking from the point of view that we all have both masculine and feminine qualities within us, and that we need to learn to include and embrace our feminine values. We do not need to overpower our masculine values, but rather bring both equally into everyday life so that we experience more balance and harmony inside and outside the office.

The Difference between Feminine and Masculine Values

Without going down the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus path, it’s important to unpack the difference between masculine and feminine values. It’s also important for us to recognise that we (yes all of us) have both masculine and feminine qualities. We’re all able to direct rational action towards a considered goal, as much as we’re capable of caring for an injured friend. We can fight the enemy as much as we can nurture those who follow in our footsteps. We can organise and control as much as we’re able to endure the ever-changing economic climate with grace and hope. The point is that we’re all capable of great power, and in the past, we’ve been more tuned into the masculine side. The shift that’s happening now is a call for us to respect and enable our feminine values to bring ourselves and our companies into balance. Thus, creating a healthy, happy and prosperous future.

A Call for Feminine Values in the Workplace

In the past our companies have been built on power, strength, perseverance and hard work. And while these are essential characteristics in a successful business, we can no longer negate the need for the feminine values of democracy, collectivism, social intelligence and communication. These values have often been, and are still considered, second rate in many workplaces. They are low on the list of priorities when we consider the bottom line, and independence, personal gain and individuality are the behaviours that are rewarded.

With burn-out, stress, chronic fatigue, data overload and as we become an even more detached society, we need, more so than ever, to embrace feminine values in the workplace, and in our daily lives.

8 Feminine Values We Need in the Workplace

The importance of having feminine values in the workplace is essential for the success of companies going forward, and the attitude with which we embrace this new shift will set the innovators apart from the rest. In the list below, we offer you eight fundamental feminine values that you need to consider and embrace to get the most from and for your team. The list includes the work of Anne Litwin and Joyce Fletcher, authors in the field of the feminine at work.

Let’s dive in!

Value 1: Intuition

Did you know that you have as many neurons in your gut as in your spinal column? That’s why you need to “trust your gut”. However, we’re taught from an early age to counter our intuitions with cognitive reasoning, as if these belly intuitions are less valuable than their brainy counterparts.

There are two levels of intuition: the gut response or a “feeling” you get about a situation, and the judgement calls you make. These both need to be brought to your attention before taking action, or the impulsivity and indecision will leave your team feeling frustrated.

The Lesson: Trust your intuition and make careful judgements.

 

Value 2: Holistic “360-degree” Focus

There is a large body of research that substantiates how women think differently to men. An appropriate analogy is: the male brain is like a filing cabinet (everything in its right place), while a woman’s brain is like a messy spider’s web (everything connected to everything else).

This quality is often thought of as unfocused and less effective, however, this style of thinking allows for a more holistic perspective where everything is considered to ensure the best solution for all. This style of thinking often leads to increased creativity and innovation when problem-solving and can be especially helpful when doing strategy and business development.

The Lesson: Consider your problem from all possible angles, including the web of impact it will have on those within and outside the company.
 

Value 3: Democratic Collectivism

The saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is exactly what this value is all about. The essence of collectivism is about finding the best situation for everyone involved. Clearly, this value was left by the wayside by almost all pioneering industrialists of the past – which is how we’ve ended up with the social and environmental repercussions we have now.

To consider the collective is to ensure and empower the voice of every individual within your organisation. A democracy may be “ineffective” in a business setting; however, your staff are the first interaction your clients have with the company. If they’re unfulfilled or neglected, do you think they will provide the best service to your customers?

The Lesson: Respect each part of the machine that is your company. A validated collective is better than any single individual.
 

Value 4: Connection

Relationships are the number one reason why people leave or stay in their job. This means that the connections made at work will directly determine how committed a person is to the company. It’s, therefore, an essential component to any successful business to enable and encourage healthy, professional connections in the workplace. Open, transparent communication which provides clarity, unity and motivation is sure to bring out the best in your team, and in turn, they will trust and support your decisions.

Another valuable point here is that every individual has capabilities which will expand and enhance your company’s mission. When these skills and strengths are known and enabled in each individual, the organisation’s potential increases exponentially.

The Lesson: Make a conscious effort to connect with each individual in your company.
 

 

Value 5: Empathy

To understand another’s suffering and provide support and space is a truly feminine quality. And while you may feel that this may “not be appropriate for the workplace”, you’re sadly mistaken. We’re only one person and having a work personality and a home personality is tiring and is, fortunately, becoming outdated.

Having empathy for your employees means you will recognise the difficulties they experience, and this will translate to your clients as well. If you practice empathy, you will become more in touch with your customers wants and needs.

Empathy with your team can practically come down to flexibility – with time, hours and commitments. Flexibility increases engagement and staff morale and reduces absenteeism and staff turnover.

The Lesson: Practice empathy and the rewards will be double what you put in.
 

Value 6: Mutual Interdependence

This value is perhaps one of the hardest to incorporate into a traditional corporate environment because of the built-in hierarchy and independent culture. However, a high-performing team will always outperform the individuals within the group and knowing the impact that every team member has on each other’s success is a valuable step in creating mutually beneficial and high-quality outcomes.

Another point to consider is that when there is a culture of interconnection, there will be a greater number of perspectives, opinions and ideas which, when harnessed, can create far superior outcomes.

The Lesson: Harness the power of interdependence and move upward faster.
 

Value 7: Emotional Engagement

For many of us, emotions are things that are left at the door, or in a lot of cases not even expressed behind closed doors. The skill of engaging emotions in the workplace is an artform and will take years to perfect, but we have to start somewhere.

Emotions are part of all of us and getting along is not always easy. It is inevitable that people won’t always get along and this friction can be the source of most dissonance in the workplace. This does not end well and can lead to people leaving the company or disengaging from their workplace, creating an unhealthy culture.

When we can openly own our emotions, they lose their power and we become more honest and authentic. This word authentic is not so simple to achieve, but it is a value which we need to strive for because when we bring our whole self to work we perform, connect, engage and innovate better.

The Lesson: Encourage emotional intelligence through open, constructive communication and non-judgemental listening.
 

Value 8: Supportive Leadership Style

We’ve all experienced it – the boss that makes our life a living hell. And hopefully, some of you will remember a leader who was a mentor, who saw your unique potential and helped guide you to become a better version of yourself.

These are the kinds of leaders we need in this world – ones who support weaknesses and nurture strengths so that the workplace becomes a place of learning, growth and development.

The Lesson: Be the leader you wish you had.
 

In Conclusion

Embodying feminine values is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but rather they’ve become necessary to remain sustainable, successful and balanced as a society. As a disclaimer before you go out and practice them: for each of the values mentioned above, there is a masculine counterpart that needs to be present for a good balance to occur. Please also remember that these are not female (gender) qualities, but rather the feminine attributes which are within all of us. You have the ability to become a powerful person for your family, community and company, but this requires the awareness, intent and knowledge of both sides of the coin.

This article is written for anybody who wishes to embrace the shift and create a healthy balance in their personal and professional life.

We wish you luck. We’re here to support you on your leadership journey.

5 Techniques to Stop Overthinking Now!

5 Techniques to Stop Overthinking Now!

Every organ in our body has a specific function which warrants its existence. The mind is no different with its main purpose being to think, process and understand. It will think about things that are relevant and important to us and will equally consider trivial, mindless things. Its full-time job is to think, but that doesn’t mean that all the thoughts we have are valuable to us and warrant attention. We need to use self-awareness to distinguish between the thoughts that are helpful and motivating for us to move in a positive direction, versus those that swirl around aimlessly in our mind resulting in an endless sense of worry, and a repetitive loop anxiety.

 

Rumination and Reflection

The two self-awareness types described are called reflection and rumination, and they discern the quality and quantity of our thoughts. Reflection and rumination both originate from the same internal source of self-focus; however, they are different in terms of their intention. Rumination is a self-focused perception of the threats to your life; loss, regret, unfair social comparison, or unpacking injustice. It is laden with an undertone of psychological distress, anxiety and endless worry. In contrast, reflection is a curious, open-minded and non-judgemental observation of self (Trapnell and Campbell, 1999). In both cases, our mind is doing its work of contemplating, but the outcome is completely different.

We all know that from self-preservation and societal influence our minds are programmed to look for the negative in all aspects of our life, this means our minds will naturally spend more energy and attention on rumination than on non-judgemental reflection. But is ruminating beneficial to us?

If you are ruminating to understand a past disappointment, frustration or angry moment, it serves you for a certain time but generally once we start to ruminate we can’t stop which results in us overthinking and isolating ourselves. What follows is a vicious, negative downward spiral. Overthinking doesn’t solve any problems. In actual fact, quite the contrary happens – it worsens the situation, makes you miserable, hampers your decision-making ability, impairs your concentration, and drains your energy. It certainly won’t bring out the best in you.

 

 Making the Shift from Rumination

When you are in the vortex of rumination, you feel pushed and pulled in all directions and you will need to become self-aware that only you have the autonomy to halt the process and step away from it. As a starting point, give yourself permission to stop overthinking things, shift to a more reflective mind-set, and work out how you can think about these ruminating thoughts in a positive light.

I am going to share various techniques to stop ruminating. Try one and see if it resonates with you; if it doesn’t, move on and experiment with another one until you find your personal fit.

We all ruminate in our lives but having techniques will assist you to move out of the overthinking space faster to a place of reflection and balance.

 

 

The Five Techniques to Stop Overthinking:

     

  1. Self-Compassion:
    Shift your relationship with yourself to a kind and loving one that is non-judgemental or self-critical. Observe a situation as if you were your loving best friend and then become curious about what you are learning about yourself and what opportunity appears in front of you. Embrace failure, disappointment and inadequacies as opportunities to grow and develop and not to be critical of your shortcomings. Ask yourself questions such as: what could this situation mean; what can I learn from this experience; what opportunity presents itself here; and what strengths can I develop as a result of the situation?

 

  1. Put it into Perspective:
    Learn to sit back and see the situation from a bigger picture viewpoint and ask yourself if this event will matter in a years’ time or even a months’ time. If it is unlikely to have such a lasting impact, then rephrase and reframe your thoughts to: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “this too shall pass”. But if the answer is yes, then shift into reflection mode and become curious and open-minded to determine what you have control over to make it a positive outcome.

 

  1. Loving-Kindness Meditation:
    This is a type of meditation where you consciously send love, blessings and kindness to yourself. Use short periods of five to ten minutes where you go inwards and repeat these three phrases: May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be at peace. Each time you repeat the phrase, you go deeper and really feel the power of the words in your body, in your heart and in your mind. The meditation is extremely powerful and will calm you, increase self-compassion and decrease overthinking.

 

  1. Time Out:
    Give yourself a set time, such as half an hour, to ruminate. You now have official permission to ruminate without feeling guilty. Set a timer and once the time is up you have to stop and engage in something completely different, preferably something fun such as listening to and singing your favourite song, doing a sweaty cardio workout or watching a comedy show.

 

  1. Reframing your language:
    During moments of rumination, we are extremely self-critical and may be using harsh, negative language. We are unlikely to speak to others in the same way but tend to be our most mean and unforgiving to ourselves. A powerful first step in breaking this chain is to become mindful of the negative language and thoughts you use towards yourself. Thereafter, rephrase the language as if you are communicating with a dear friend and apply that to yourself. Pay attention to your tone of voice and how you would like to talk to yourself in the future.

 
Ruminating is a natural phenomenon that we are wired to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us, in large doses. Through continuous self-awareness and discernment of the quality of your thoughts, you can assess if your thoughts are serving you or not. If not, you are likely overthinking things and mainly living in your head. If you bring in a combination of reflection and the techniques described above, you will have the practical tools to transform your thoughts into positive ones and experience a much lighter and easier life.

In the words of John Milton:

The mind is its own place, and it itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

 

Reference

Trapnell, P., & Campbell, J. (1999). Private self-consciousness and the five-factor model of personality: Distinguising rumination from reflection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 284-304.