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You know, some days, all you can see are the negative things in your life: losing your keys, missing the bus, the laptop crashing during your presentation, and so on…
Over the years, I’ve learnt to reframe my thoughts to focus more on the positive. It’s not easy and doesn’t always work. And since humans have a strong negative bias (think “fight or flight), developing a positive attitude at work takes energy and effort.
What moves the needle the most for me to nurture a positive attitude at work is to create positive daily habits. The habits help shift the focus away from the negative and improve mental wellbeing.
I know what you’re thinking – you’ve heard it all before, but how do you actually do it?
In this post, I share 10 simple but powerful habits to help you develop and maintain a positive attitude at work (and in life). They have been carefully selected to make the biggest impact on your mindset – no doubt about it!
1. Stop Watching/Reading The News
News are an addiction. They are hugely dramatised to keep you engaged and wanting for more. 99% of the content is negative and when you pay attention, you’ll quickly realise that stories constantly repeat themselves, in one way or another.
Why bombard yourself with such negativity every day?
Watching the news is an insidious source of anxiety and stress. I stopped years ago and became more intentional about the information I consumed.
It’s not about ignoring the problems our world is facing. Not at all. It’s about taking some distance, deciding what matters to you personally, and proactively deciding to dive deeper if you want to.
I have a weekly check-in of the most relevant headlines from authoritative sources and read long-form content on the topics that interest me.
Practical tip: Turn your notifications off and block 30 minutes to one hour each week to catch up with the most relevant stories.
By the way – this also applies to social media. Stop scrolling aimlessly and comparing yourself to others. Be intentional about how and when you consume social content.
2. Plan The Next Day
Most of us spend a big part of the day solving other people’s problems due to a lack of clear intention.
What do you need to do today that will give you a sense of achievement?
If you don’t plan your day and set yourself goals, how can you be proactive? Instead, you will fight fires, answer every email that pops up and end the day feeling empty.
The alternative is to be radically intentional about what you will deliver each day. Don’t leave it to chance or others. Look at your objectives (we’ll assume you have objectives) and focus on what is important. What tasks could you do tomorrow that will bring you closer to achieving those objectives?
Doing this will make you feel in control and boost your confidence and positive attitude at work.
Practical tip: Write down your 3 most important tasks for tomorrow on a post-it note before you log off.
3. Read Positive Books Before Bed
What do you do before bed? Does your bedtime routine involve winding down and easing into a restful sleep, or are you trying to do too much until the light’s out or stare at a screen until the last minute?
The latter might make you feel like you achieve more but going to bed with stress and anxiety can lead to a bad night. And let’s not even mention the negative effect of the blue light from your screen.
Reading positive or life-affirming books before bed is a great hack that I’ve used for years (I read about this in Max Strom’s book “A Life Worth Breathing” – a great read before bed!).
Reading positive books before bed has huge benefits. It slows down your breathing and helps maintain a sense of calm, resulting in far better sleep. Your brain internalises the positive messages and processes them overnight, making you feel more positive in the long run. But it also improves your creativity, brainpower and even protects against Alzheimer’s.
If you’re lacking inspiration, here’s a fantastic list of 78 feel-good books put together by TED.
Practical tip: If you’re not already reading before bed, commit to stopping whatever you do in the evening 30 minutes earlier starting tonight, and use that time to read a feel-good book.
4. Practise Mindfulness
I know you read it everywhere, but mindfulness does make a difference in nurturing a positive attitude at work (and in life).
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
So what does it have to do with having a positive attitude at work?
Well, practising mindfulness helps you anchor yourself in the moment and helps you manage your anxiety of the future or the worries of the past.
As an example, if left unchecked, being anxious about your next presentation could impact your attitude at work in the hours or days leading up to it. Learning to be mindful can help manage that.
Mindfulness can be practised through meditation, gratitude, yoga, qi gong, journalling etc… But it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You can start by taking 5 minutes for yourself, slowing down your breath and noticing how you are feeling. You’ll feel the benefits immediately.
Practical tip: Next time you have lunch by yourself, avoid the temptation to find distractions (watching TV, listening to a podcast etc…). Instead, be present, aware and enjoy every bite.
5. Exercise Outdoors Before 11 AM
Exercising early in the day has a myriad of benefits. For starters, exercising triggers a release of dopamine and serotonin, which can improve mood and make you feel happier for the day ahead.
Exercise in the morning is a great way to feel energised and ready to tackle the day. You will benefit from an instant energy boost and increased mental clarity that will help you develop a positive attitude at work and be more productive.
Early exercise outdoors will also set you up for better sleep, as the exposure to natural light in the morning will maximise your energy in the hours following and make you feel more tired in the evening (it’s also a great way to deal with insomnia or night-time anxiety).
Practical tip: No need to run a marathon first thing in the morning! If you can, block 30 minutes in your calendar before 11 AM and start with a steady walk outside.
6. Write Down Your Wins
I love this hack because it shortcuts our tendency to focus on the negative.
I remember going into my performance review a few years back knowing what I achieved against my specific objectives. But I couldn’t remember all the other things I achieved. And I knew there was a lot. Yet my mind went blank…
Soon after, I started writing down my achievements daily, big or small. And this had a bigger impact on nurturing a positive attitude at work than I could ever have imagined!
Yes, I was really clear on my wins ahead of the next performance review.
But the most incredible thing is that I started feeling more and more confident about my abilities to create value in my role, which in turn helped me deal with imposter syndrome (feeling like a fraud, that you’re not “good enough” for your job).
Practical tip: Open your note-taking app (or create a new document) and start writing down every little win you have in your day-to-day. When you have a bad day, read this list for a few minutes and take time to reflect on your achievements.
7. Craft Your Own Morning Routine
How does having a morning routine help you adopt a positive attitude at work, you ask?
It’s all about mindset!
When you take time in the day for yourself, preferably in the morning, you ready yourself to take on any challenges because you have already paid yourself first!
I’ve had to practise my morning routine through trial and error to get it right. It’s not as simple as following someone else’s routine. You have to make it yours if you want to reap the benefits.
I wake up at 5 AM (what?!), have a few minutes to myself with a mandatory cup of coffee, work on My Working Way for an hour, and then spend around 45 mins doing a mix of exercise, yoga, and meditation.
It helps me with having a positive attitude at work (and in life!) because I’m ready and proactive, not reactive, when – the kids wake up, the work emails pile up, meetings clutter my calendar, the phone rings with last-minute “urgent” requests etc…
Fire away, I’ve already done something for myself!
Practical tip: Experiment with your morning routine. Don’t do too much in one go. Start waking up slightly early and build from there. Do what makes you happy, proud and/or fulfilled, and keep tweaking until you get it right.
8. Declutter Your Workspace
Clutter stresses me out!
I just can’t concentrate if I’m in a cluttered environment and it 100% impacts my mood at work if my workspace is a pile of mess…
It doesn’t have to be perfect but enough to feel in control.
It is a personal preference though, some people are OK with clutter and actually thrive from it.
Practical tip: Spend a few minutes on a Friday afternoon to tidy up your workspace, and notice how you feel on Monday morning when you start working.
9. Give Up Caffeine
This is one I struggle with the most: I LOVE coffee!
A few years ago, I would go through 5-6 cups a day, from the moment I woke up until the late afternoon. Today, I’m down to 1 first thing in the morning…
Since I’ve reduced my caffeine intake, my energy is more levelled. Because caffeine is bad for maintaining energy throughout the day.
I know, caffeine does give you a kick for a few hours. But similar to a sugar rush, it is usually followed by a crash. And with that comes the search for more stimulation: more coffee, sugary drinks, snacks etc… And the cycle continues.
What it does to your mood is similar to what it does to your energy – it goes up and down all the time.
It’s a lot harder to develop a more positive attitude at work when you’re stuck in a vicious cycle…
Practical tip: If you want to try limiting your coffee intake, do it in steps and don’t go cold turkey. Trick your brain by switching to green tea, maintaining the caffeine intake, until you’re ready to give up caffeine altogether!
10. Spread Positivity
Have you ever thought about buying a specific model of car? And once you start thinking about it, the only car you seem to notice on the road is this particular model?
It’s the same with positivity. When you strive to have a positive outlook on things, you will notice more and more positivity around you.
Research shows that spreading happiness is a solid way to improve mental health. You’re less likely to feel depressed or anxious when dealing with whatever life throws at you because you have built resilience in the face of adversity and have the necessary tool to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
And if you’re happier, you will find having a positive attitude at work really easy (and rather natural actually…).
Practical tip: Make it your mission to praise a colleague every single day. Tell them what a great job they’ve done, how you’ve liked their presentation or that their report was expertly written. You might just make their day! Just remember to be genuine…
Look, you won’t always have a positive attitude at work because, well, some things are outside of your control and you’re only human.
I’m a great believer in taking control of your thoughts and emotions.
There is A LOT we can do to reframe what you think, feel and act accordingly, as long as you are curious enough to understand how and do a bit of introspection.
The habits in this post are there to help you reframe in the long term. Some will help immediately, some will take longer. Some will resonate with you, some won’t make sense.
Try, experiment, see how you feel. Take what you like and leave what you don’t.
But, at the end of the day, having a positive attitude at work (and in life) can ONLY be a good thing for you and others around you.
So why not try it?
What habit resonates most with you? What are you going to experiment with right now? What else are you doing to help you maintain a positive attitude at work?
Let me know in the comments, I’d love to know how it goes!