Doesn’t it feel good to vent to a friend about a rude client, or that showdown with a colleague? And how can we forget the tango with our bosses. It is a common practice to let off steam at the end of a rough day or experience. It helps us refocus on the good things about work. But, science now says this habit could actually be making things worse for us.
Our brain operates through a negativity bias that is inherent to all humans. It has an evolutionary advantage of keeping us away from harm. However, the downside to this is that our brain is hyper sensitive to negative information. Hence, we take to venting easily, but it actually depletes our mental resources like will-power, energy to concentrate, etc.
Researchers have found the perfect antidote to this bane: the ‘three good things’ practice.
A team of researchers worked with employees of outpatient clinics, and asked them to log onto a website at the end of their work day, to complete a survey. The questionnaire asked them to spend 5 – 10 minutes writing about three moments, personal or work-related, that had gone ‘really well’ that day — and to explain why those things had gone well.
The responses ranged from reports of coworkers’ bringing in delicious food, to the mere fact that it was Friday, to thoughtful stories about interactions with people that made them feel good. For example, one nurse wrote that, “a doctor gave me a compliment today.” Why? “Because I knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation, and I helped a patient who was having a seizure.”
The results: after three weeks of writing about a trio of good things that happened daily, stress levels and mental and physical complaints reduced. Moreover, on days when participants focused on good things, they were better able to switch off stressful job-related thoughts in the evening at home. A by-product of this study was also to notice if positivity is contagious or not. And it was! Those who heard of only positive stories, shared them with others, thus strengthening inter-personal relationships. And finally, this practice also fostered more creativity. Positive emotions are the most effective breeding ground for innovation, growth and development.
Thus, the next time you feel like complaining about a lengthy annual planning process, an unproductive meeting or your team member not adhering to deadlines, we recommend spotting the silver lining.