Why Positive Encouragement Works Better Than Criticism, According to Science

smileI’ve written about positivity before, in terms of cultivating a positive outlook for yourself. What I want to write about today is cultivating positivity in your workplace, particularly if you’re a leader. By focusing on positive interactions with your employees and encouraging an upbeat emotional state as often as possible, you’ll be more likely to have a happy, productive and efficient team.

How positivity affects our brains

To start with, let’s look at how positive and negative emotions work in our brains, and what we can learn from that.

Positive emotions generally work in an opposite way to negative emotions. So, while emotions like fear, anxiety, stress and anger narrow our focus, inhibit our concentration and decrease our cognitive abilities, positive emotions can do the opposite. When we’re feeling upbeat and happy, we’re more likely to have an inclusive focus than a self-centered outlook, and to perform better on cognitively demanding tasks.

That is why exercising often makes us happier, especially if we choose to go for a demanding work-out.

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How To Make Positivity a Habit: 4 Simple Steps to a Happier Everyday Life

be more positiveOne thing that I noticed immediately when joining Buffer was our emphasis on cultivating positivity. If you take a quick look at our culture deck, you can see the high priority we place on this. Since I joined the team, positive thinking is something I’ve focused on a lot, and it’s been fun to see how spending time with positive thinkers rubs off on me.

At the moment, some of us are experimenting with sharing one great moment we had at the end of each day. I’ve found that making this a habit has encouraged me to look out for positive moments during the day, since I know I’ll need to share one later on. It’s also been a great way to increase my feelings of gratitude—often for everyday things, like a great coffee to start the day or encouragement from a friend.

I wanted to really dig into positive thinking as a habit and see what science has to say about it. I found some really interesting research on how positive thinking can improve our health and happiness, as well as some great advice to cultivate a habit of being positive.

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10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

Happiness is so interesting, because we all have different ideas about what it is and how to get it. It’s also no surprise that it’s the Nr.1 value for Buffer’s culture, if you see our slidedeck about it. So naturally we are obsessed with it.

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

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