The business world tends to prize characteristics like persistence and work ethic. Positive thinking, by contrast, is dismissed as ethereal and inconsequential.
Research is starting to change that perception.
On Xperience Real Estate’s weekly partner call, Director of Expansion Katie Benson shared what scientists are learning about the power of positivity on production— and the lessons team members can apply to their lives:
Barbara Fredrickson, a professor at the University of North Carolina, is one of the world’s leading scholars on the effects of positivity. To understand its power, she says, you first have to understand what negative thoughts do to your brain. She uses the example of walking through a forest when a tiger suddenly crosses your path. Fear triggers you to flee. Negative emotion narrows your mind and forces you to focus your thoughts.
While few of us are likely to cross paths with a tiger these days, from an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are still programmed to respond in the same way. If we argue with someone, anger and emotion can consume us to the point we can’t think about anything else. If we’re stressed, we can spin and spin to the point that we can’t accomplish anything at all. Negative emotions prevent our brain from seeing the range of options available to us.
In a celebrated experiment, Fredrickson had five groups watch a film clip and then complete an exercise. One group watched a film focused on joy, another on contentment, a third that was neutral in emotion (to serve as a control), a fourth featuring fear, and a fifth on anger.
Afterward, each subject was asked to imagine a similar situation and write down what specific steps they would take. Those watching the fear and anger clips wrote down the fewest responses. Those watching the joy and contentment clips wrote down the most. When you experience positive emotions, you see more possibilities in your life.
Benson said what is most fascinating about the research on positivity is that the benefits don’t end in that moment. They actually allow you to develop resources for later in life. Researchers call it the “Broaden and Build” theory. Broadening your mind allows you to build new skills. Negative thinking does the exact opposite.
To channel the power of positivity in your life, choose anything that gives you fulfillment. Maybe it’s hearing a favorite song or connecting with a friend. Maybe it’s meditation. (Research shows that those who meditate daily experience more positive emotions than those who do not meditate.) Or perhaps it’s writing or simply scheduling time to “play.” Leverage the activities that lead you to a more positive state of mind.
Happiness is often the result of achievement, so we wrongly assume happiness only follows success. In truth, happiness is essential to building the skills that allow for success. It creates the conditions for an upward spiral.
Positive thinking isn’t just soft and fluffy. It’s critical to open your mind to develop new skills. Find ways to provide more than just a momentary decrease in your stress levels. As Benson said, “Seek joy. Play often. Seek adventure. And your brain will do the rest.”
Benson concluded by challenging Xperience team members to share on Slack this week what they are doing to reinforce — and benefit from — the power of positive thinking.
How Positive Thinking Improves Your Work.