WHAT’S THE ONE THING WE ALL CAN BENEFIT FROM DOING MORE OF?
Appreciating others, appreciating the world around us, appreciating ourselves.
But why is it often so hard for us to appreciate?
Because we’re born with a “negativity bias.” We inherited this bias from our ancient ancestors, who were more preoccupied with avoiding being eaten themselves versus finding food they could eat. In the words of neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”
An example of where I experience negativity bias is when I give a workshop and receive glowing reviews – from everyone except one person. While part of me knows it makes more sense to focus on the overall positive picture, the “cavewoman” in me can easily take me down the path of “what went wrong?” if I’m not careful.
So is appreciation worth the effort?
The science of Positive Psychology has confirmed what we inherently know to be true. When we focus on the positive, we tend to feel happier, be more fulfilled, and ultimately experience more ease in creating success in our lives.
And there’s a link between appreciating the people on your team and their performance. A 2015 Gallup study showed that when leaders focus on their employee’s strengths or positive characteristics, they are more than twice as likely to engage their team members.
And the best news of all is that the more we build the neural pathways to thinking positively, the easier it gets to continue to do it.
So where do we start? Try these three steps…
(1) INTENTIONALLY NOTICE WHAT’S WORKING
The reality is that more neutral and positive things happen to us each day than negative things. So it’s not about manufacturing positive things, it’s about noticing them.
When we notice something positive, rather than brushing it aside, we can take a moment to let it soak in. Really allowing ourselves to experience the positive feelings associated with “things going well.” For example, is there something you can notice that’s going well for you right now? Something going well in the environment around you? Something you’re proud of yourself for? A positive interaction you had with someone in your work or life? Something to be grateful for in your life?
(2) ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL APPRECIATION FOR WHAT’S WORKING
Once you notice something positive, take 30 seconds to intentionally allow yourself to enjoy what it feels like to appreciate it. Maybe your breath slows down. Maybe your muscles relax. Maybe you notice a sense of warmth coming over you. Whatever the case, absorbing the positivity and appreciation in our bodies is an important part of rewiring those neural pathways.
Sometimes we feel too distracted to pause and we want to “move on.” That would be part of human nature, and not something to beat yourself up for. Rather, take heart that the opportunity is always there for us to build up our propensity to feel more positivity in our lives by intentionally placing attention on what’s working.
(3) ACT ON YOUR APPRECIATION
Once you’ve fostered this feeling of positivity within yourself, it’s a great time to act…see if you feel more inclined to express appreciation to someone on your team, or in your life. In doing so, you may benefit by growing your relationship with that person, but you’ll also be giving yourself another reason to feel positive.