• Eve Arnold

A Positive Mindset Can Improve Happiness

A positive mindset is a necessity in the workplace.

Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

“Everything hangs on one’s thinking…A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is.” Seneca

Mindset and the impact of having a positive outlook on life has been studied for a good while. When you are new to work one of things that was most apparent to me was the effect thinking positively or negatively can have. There was a time when I’d wake up every day and have the same thoughts.Which was something along the lines of:

“This 9–5 stuff is rubbish. It’s groundhog day. I want to be fulfilling my passion.”

So what effect can simply thinking happier have. The difference between getting up in the morning and writing down the things you are grateful for rather than focusing how cold it is. Concentrating on all the good things that were said at the meeting rather than the one bad thing. How can changing what we look for in our day help us have a better day?

Science – Positive Mindset

Happiness, in healthy populations, reduces the risk of getting ill. In fact, it is about the same reduction as smoking or not. That’s right, being happy has the same improvement on health as smoking or not. A bad mindset is like smoking 40 a day. This isn’t to say that if you are suffering from a terrible disease, thinking positivity is going to cure you. What this is to say is that in healthy populations, thinking positively and being happy reduces the risk of getting ill. In one particular study it was found that happier people lived on average, 7.5 years longer than those that were less happy.

The relationship between physical health and mental health has been studied for years. One of the most common mentions in the literature is that feeling unhappy stimulates your fight or flight response. That response results in higher blood pressure and a lowered immune response. In the long run will have negative effects. According to science, happier people are more likely to watch their weight, engage in sport and be more perceptive to illness.

Held Hostage and Controlling Your Thoughts

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

In 1987 Terry Waite was working as a hostage agent, he had arrived in Beirut with the focus of negotiating with the Islamic Jahid Organisation. Back then, they had taken some British citizens hostage and Terry was a hostage negotiator working on the case. On January 20th 1987, just 8 days after he arrived in Beirut, Waite met with the captors in order to meet with the hostages, who were according to the captors, ill and needed attention. During that meeting the group broke and Waite was subsequently taken hostage.

Waite was chained to a radiator and held in solitary confinement for 1,763 days. For 23 hours and 50 minutes a day he was held in a dark room of which he was allowed out of for 10 minutes a day for the toilet.

Torture and a Positive Mindset

The guy who went to save the hostages was now experiencing what it was like first hand to be held captive. Over 4 years later, Waite was released. He went on to write books, to educate the world on what it’s like to be a captivate human in those conditions for nearly 4 years. But more importantly he talks about controlling your mind in desperate times. He told himself he’d been on many journeys in his life and this was a journey of his mind, so he spent his time looking inside himself. He tells interviewers about how he wrote his first book in those times, in his head. Waite was left in a room by himself with nothing but total darkness, yet he used it to find some light.

During that time he suffered imaginable pain. Mock executions, torture, solitary confinement for the best part of his time out there. Yet Waite has no PTSD from the experience. In fact, he went back to Beirut years later. In an interview with the BBC he said:

“If you are bitter, it will eat you up and do more damage to you than to the people who have hurt you.”

In Our Lives — In Work

“There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge. Both poverty and riches are the offspring of thought.” ― Napoleon Hill

Our mindset is hugely important. The way we see the world is our only view. It’s the only true view that we go back to time and time again. People can tell us their view and we can take that on board but ultimately, it’s ourselves that we listen to the most. How we then see the world is hugely important. It’s our only narrative to our story. It’s the equivalent of deciding whether we are going to live the life of a Disney Princess who meets her Prince (or Princess) and lives happily ever after. Or are we to live a life of mystery, thrill like a Stephen King Novel. Is there going to be suspense and drama?

Your Story

We all have a beginning, middle and end. How we structure our stories, how we absorb the world and comprehend what is going on, well that’s up to us. This is so true in work. Every meeting, phone call, project update, piece of work has a story. Every interaction you create your own internal dialogue of what is happening. We can choose to look for the good in that interaction or look for the bad.

Whichever you look for you will find. When you are new to work it’s so important to start this internal dialogue off on a positive, kind note. Being unfairly critical and harsh on yourself at the start of your career is a fairly quick way to live a pretty grim life. If you continue to beat yourself up you will find it becomes a habit.

It’s only till you start making yourself aware of what you tell yourself after every meeting that you realise you are bullying yourself. It sounds an odd concept but I know because it happened to me. After every meeting it would be “you didn’t say that quite right” or “that didn’t make sense”. There is a huge difference between having an attitude of continuous improvement and just being horrible to yourself.

At the Start

When you are early in your career be kind to yourself. You will find that mindset is a huge part of work and if you can start to get it right from the very beginning you’ll have less of a battle on your hands a few years down the line. Our mindset is powerful, so powerful it reduces the risk of getting ill and can mean that we can think ourselves through the grimest times imaginable. Use it to your advantage.

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