Resilience and positive emotions at work

Those of you who’ve come to Zoomly’s workshops, or our Topic Taster sessions, will know that we’re big fans of positive psychology. I’m particularly interested in how this can be harnessed to boost our resilience in tough times. When we’re more resilient we can adapt to challenges and setbacks more effectively – anyone experienced these recently? Yep, thought so.

We know that identifying our strengths and then utilising them more often builds our positive self-image and confidence. This can help us be more resilient when faced with challenges.

Want to know your strengths? Two resources I highly recommend: the free VIA signature strengths questionnaire (you’ll need to scroll down to the Engagement Questionnaires section) and the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP)’s Realise 2 instrument, which charges a small fee.

But there’s more to resilience than strengths: how we think or feel in response to difficulties has a big effect too. Most of the time, we’re thinking and feeling on autopilot, with that iPod in our head muttering away.

Now if we pay attention to what it’s saying, how it interprets and describes these everyday difficulties, we might find that it’s using positive language, or it may be set to negative. “I just knew it was going to rain – on my birthday”, as opposed to, “Hey ho, saves me watering the garden, and we need the rain”.

Because our thoughts and feelings are closely related and influence each other, affecting our view of our world, this iPod can need some attention. If it’s set to negative, we’re more likely to experience those emotions more of the time and thus have lower resilience. If it’s mostly positive we are more likely to adapt well to challenges and setbacks.

You could start by simply noticing what your inner soundtrack says when things happen. You could also do an ‘Explanatory styles’ questionnaire, such as this quick quiz on Oprah’s site (yes, really) here, though I’d suggest you read up on what to do with your results, such as consulting Seligman’s Learned Optimism. It’s important to understand that we can change the settings on our inner soundtrack: it takes practice, but it can be done.

Why should we bother? Because there’s a growing body of evidence that positive emotions are linked to higher engagement at work (Shalfrooshan, 2013). When we’re engaged in our work, we’re more enthusiastic, find more meaning in our work, and view our employer more positively. We spend a great deal of time at work, so I reckon it’s a sound investment of our precious time and attention to help ourselves enjoy our working lives more.

Sahlfrooshan, A. (2013). Resilience and engagement: What is the connection? Assessment & Development Matters, Vol 5, No 3, 2-5.

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