A healthy workplace culture depends on a workforce that is committed to positive thinking. In honor of Positive Thinking Day (Sept. 13), take a moment to evaluate how a change in attitude could affect the culture, health and performance of your company.
What Positive Thinking Isn’t
Positive thinking is not a refusal to see reality. It also doesn’t mean pretending that everything’s hunk-dory when it’s not.
Positive thinking is a subtle shift in how you perceive reality and react to it. It’s a refusal to let minor mishaps totally derail an entire day.
We’ve all had those mornings: the coffeemaker breaks, traffic is a nightmare, a coworker doesn’t smile back, clearly because she dislikes you — and everything just goes downhill from there. By the time you reach the mid-afternoon client meeting, gloom and doom has settled over everyone around you. The client senses it, too, and is unhappy. In a matter of hours, a broken coffeemaker and lousy traffic has caused your company to lose business.
Now let’s look at that same morning through the lens of positive thinking: “The coffeemaker broke, so I tried a new tea at home and then treated myself to a coffee break later with a friend; traffic was a nightmare, so I focused on listening to an interesting podcast in the car; my coworker didn’t smile back, so I asked her how she was doing and she opened up about a problem she’s having at home that I was able to help her with.”
Positive Thinking = Positive Actions
Doctors at Mayo Clinic view positive thinking as a major tool in stress management, because it trains your brain to think productively.
“Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.”
The first step toward embracing positive thinking as a tool is to identify the types of negative thinking to which you most often succumb. Mayo Clinic staff identify these as:
- Filtering — magnifying the negative aspects of a situation while filtering out the positive
- Personalizing — automatically blaming yourself when something bad occurs, even when it isn’t at all personal
- Catastrophizing — anticipating the worst
- Polarizing — seeing things as “good” or “bad” (or as “perfect” or a “failure”), with no middle ground
Next, Mayo Clinic staff recommend turning your positive thoughts into actions. Negative thoughts lead to dead ends, while positive thinking seeks alternate routes and solutions. Periodically throughout the day, check your inner monologue for negative thinking. Encourage positive thinking in others and avoid falling into the trap of other people’s negative thinking. When things get tough, seek out and take joy in the humor of the situation.
The Health Benefits of Positive Thinking
Training yourself to think positively has profound psychological and physiological effects. Mayo Clinic’s list of the potential benefits includes lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, better coping skills, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and increased life span.
Although positive thinking is an individual practice, it’s infectious and spreads quickly in a group of people working together closely. It sets a tone. When positive thinking becomes the cornerstone attitude of a culture, the culture benefits collectively. Company leaders have the power to set that tone.
Remember that workplace culture is malleable.
Matt Rizai, CEO of Workiva, recently described the importance of this in a column for Forbes, “4 Ways To Build A Workplace Culture That Empowers People.”
“The past few years have seen a shift in the way people think about workplace culture. While culture was once viewed as something that emerged organically without thought or intention, there is a growing realization that culture plays a key role in the success or failure of organizations. Companies that are thoughtful in shaping their culture reap many benefits, such as the ability to attract and retain top talent and nurture loyal, satisfied customers,” he wrote.
Make positive thinking the defining characteristic of your workplace culture. To begin in this process today, pay attention to your own “self-talk.” Set alerts on your cellphone throughout the day and when they go off, take a quiet minute to reflect on your current self-talk and how it affects the people around you and your company.
Soon you will see the patterns of your thought process and where you (and others) could most could benefit from positive thinking.
A culture that practices positive thinking is building gratitude, too. For a step-by-step guide with other practical tips to get you started on building a vibrant culture of gratitude, download our FREE e-book, “Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.” Click the image below and start sharing your workplace gratitude today!
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