Workplace Wellness

by Liggy Webb

A positive attitude – walking your talk

As a manager, if you want your particular department, team or area to be a model of workplace wellness, you need to start with yourself. Positivity and a healthy mindset can prove fortunately infectious!

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.

Zig Ziglar

A positive attitude is not about a magical mystical mindset possessed by the lucky few. It is something that everyone is capable of achieving and is simply an inclination or leaning toward the positive aspects of any given situation. Thinking positively is not about putting your head in the sand, nor is it about being unrealistic. A positive attitude recognises the negative aspects of a situation, yet chooses to focus instead on the hope and opportunity available. This releases you from getting locked in a paralysing loop of bad feeling and allows you to move quickly to take action and solve difficulties.

Positive thinking and optimism are now known to be a root cause of many life benefits. The relatively new science of psychoneuroimmunology looks at how our mind can influence our immune system. The theory is that you will live longer and be healthier and happier if you cultivate a positive attitude toward life. In addition, you’re more likely to be successful, maintain better relationships and have a beneficial influence on those around you.

Emotions and beliefs

Your mental approach to life is a combination of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs. Becoming aware of your emotions, identifying and analysing your thoughts and understanding your beliefs is key to really being able to tackle how you deal with what comes your way. The most basic indicators of your positivity or negativity are your emotions, which are essentially mental states that arise spontaneously, rather than through conscious effort, and are often accompanied by physiological changes.

Your emotions can have a very strong impact on how you behave and react. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a fascinating area and well worth reading up on to help you to become more emotionally aware. The essential premise of EQ is that, in order to be successful, you require the awareness, control and management of your own emotions and recognise and understand the emotions of those around you.

It is important to be aware that you feed your emotions with your thoughts. It also helps to remember that at the bedrock of your thoughts and emotions are your values and beliefs, deep-rooted ideas that are a result of all your life experiences. These are your life attitudes and they colour and shape your perception of the world. Negative beliefs, however, can undermine your joy in life, so it is well worth addressing any negative beliefs and looking to change them for a positive alternative.

Example

Just consider the difference between these two beliefs:

Change is exciting because it opens up new opportunities and ideas.

Change threatens my control and puts me outside my comfort zone.

Understanding habits

Habits are at first cobwebs, and then they become cables.

Spanish proverb

For individuals to really benefit from wellness, it is important to make some changes, break a few bad habits and embrace a few new good ones. So, first of all, understanding habits and how they form is going to be very useful.

The human brain is a magnificent machine and consists of billions of nerve cells with innumerable extensions. This interlacing of nerve fibres and their junctions allows a nerve impulse to follow a number of routes known as neural pathways. When you learn something new, your brain makes connections that create new pathways for activity. Setting up neural pathways is actually quite simple. If a newly-learned behaviour is repeated enough times, it eventually gets programmed into the subconscious mind; that behaviour becomes automatic and we no longer have to think about doing it, because we respond automatically. This, simply put, is a habit.

Over 90 per cent of our daily routine is comprised of various habits that create our behaviours. What separates the positive people from the negative ones is that positive people have habits and behaviours that are conducive to success, while negative people have ones that facilitate failure in their lives.

Key point

You control your habits – they do not control you. Your life is the culmination of all the daily behaviours that you have.

It is important to identify which habits in your life lead to negative consequences and which lead to positive rewards. Experts in hypnosis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming – which is the art and science of personal excellence) believe that it takes around 21 to 28 days to form the basis of a new habit or behaviour. The time it takes to replace an old one is less clear cut because it depends entirely on the person and how long they have owned the habit.

How to develop good habits

If you have identified a risk to your health and want to change, there are several things you can do to reinforce that new healthy habit:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin
  • Identify exactly the specific habit that you would like to change
  • Challenge yourself and believe that you can do it
  • Make a list of all the benefits of breaking or adopting the habit
  • Set yourself up for success by taking immediate action to change
  • Tell people around you what you are trying to do
  • Don’t give up – failure is only a reality when you stop trying
  • Keep a record of your progress and results
  • Make sure you keep it up, even when you have succeeded
  • Be positive and open minded about change.

Positive psychology

Creating and maintaining a positive attitude is the most efficient and low-cost investment you can make in order to improve your life. A positive way of thinking is a habit that must be learned through repetition and conscious effort on your part.

We are faced with literally millions of challenging situations throughout our personal and professional lives. Once we accept the reality that we will be faced with many challenges, to which we must seek solutions, it becomes obvious that creating and maintaining a positive attitude can only help us. Our problems remain the same size; whether you react with bitterness or enthusiasm, it doesn’t change the problem.

How to think positively

  • Declare your intent to think positively.
  • Write down your intention in strong, clear and direct language.
  • Use positive affirmations to condition your mind (see Affirmations).
  • Read inspiring books and listen to audio tapes on the subject.
  • At the end of each day, reflect on the positive aspects of the day.
  • Become very aware of your thinking and internal voice.
  • Before going to sleep, reflect upon what you’re looking forward to the next day.
  • Write down any concerns you have and challenge them with a positive outcome.

Taking personal responsibility

Accept complete responsibility for your situation. The very act of taking responsibility short-circuits and cancels out any negative emotion that you may trigger. By embracing responsibility, you reap many rewards. The successes brought by this attitude act as a foundation for self-respect, pride and confidence. Responsibility breeds competence and power. By living up to your promises and obligations, you win the trust of others. Once you are seen as trustworthy, people will willingly work with you for mutual gain. Making excuses can put the brakes on your progress, while accepting responsibility can lead you to succeed.

So the next time something goes wrong, challenge whether you are looking for something or someone to blame and, if you make a mistake, say sorry and get busy rectifying the situation.

To keep your mind positive, refuse to criticise, complain about or condemn someone else. Complaining about someone else for something they have done or not done will only trigger feelings of negativity and anger in you. And then you are the one that suffers. Your negativity doesn’t affect the other person at all. Being angry with someone is allowing them to control your emotions and often the entire quality of your life, long distance.

Self-esteem

People who have high self-esteem tend to be positive thinkers. It seems to go with the territory. It follows that, if you use positive thinking to enhance your core beliefs, your self-esteem will soar.

If you were supporting someone with low self-esteem, you wouldn’t criticise or put them down. However, it’s amazing how much of a hard time we can give ourselves, constantly beating ourselves up for the slightest mistake. Treating yourself how you would instinctively behave towards a friend is a much kinder way to behave towards yourself and far more positive.

Remember: for every mistake that you make, there’s another valuable lesson you learn. So you are building your pot of wisdom. Working on your own self-confidence is key. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence and it is important to be honest with yourself and seek feedback from others. It is also important, however, that you don’t rely on others to big you up and make you feel better.

Visualisation

Visualisation involves allowing your thoughts to extend into an internal video. Playing out a situation in your mind can raise your creativity, change your emotional state and help you focus and reduce tension. It is a very powerful technique and many top performers use visualisation to help focus on successful goal achievement. It’s like a mental rehearsal of what you want to happen. Imagining your goals and dreams can lead to you actually experiencing them, because what your mind focuses on, your body will respond by acting upon.

When you visualise, your muscles experience electrical impulses that correspond to the physical event you are imagining. An example is the story of a talented pianist called Liu Chi Kung who was imprisoned for seven years during the Cultural Revolution; when he was released, he played better than ever. When he was interviewed, he was asked how that was possible without him practising. He responded by saying ‘I did practise, every day. I rehearsed every piece I ever played, note by note, in my mind.’

Intuition

If you’re facing an obstacle you don’t understand or haven’t ever experienced, your intuition can work its magic. Your mind will reach back into your past for ideas, resources – your intuition will bring forth inspirations that you hadn’t previously considered. It will prompt you to turn left or right, or take a whole new road altogether. It will let you know if you’re on the right track, and will supply you with motivation and insight.

Happiness at work

The positive thinker who is unhappy at work takes action to improve things. If you feel negative about your job, try to be more involved, rather than less. The more actively you contribute; the more control you will have. A good way to realistically assess your happiness at work is to ask yourself the following key questions:

  • Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  • Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  • In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  • Does my immediate manager, or someone at work, care about me as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  • At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  • Do I truly support the mission/purpose of my company?
  • Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  • Do I have opportunities at work to learn and grow?

If you have answered no to any of these questions it is important that you take responsibility and challenge why? Ask yourself whether you are doing your very best. Challenge your views. Ask for feedback and have the courage to give feedback to your manager. A shut up and put up attitude won’t make things any better and you will just end up remaining unhappy and affecting others.

Now think about how people on your team would answer these questions. In fact, you could even print them out and give them to people on your team. You will almost certainly be surprised at the answers they give.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Winston Churchill

In summary

How to improve your attitude:

  • Take personal responsibility for everything you think, feel and do
  • Refuse the snooze on work days – get up and get going
  • Make sure that your internal voice is having a positive chat with you
  • Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are feeling good
  • Be positive when you respond to other people
  • Try not to infect others with your NAGs (Negative Attitude Germs)
  • Balance your internal and external referencing
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others
  • Be a radiator, not a drain
  • Slay the doom goblin
  • Feed your dinner table of emotions and positive thoughts
  • Turn problems into opportunities
  • Use SUMO – Shut Up and Move On
  • Live each day how you would like to repeat it.