“Positive Emotions Build Psychological Resiliency and Trigger Upward Spirals Toward Improved Emotional Well-Being” - Barbara Fredrickson
Positive emotions are a direct descendant of the positive psychology movement, developed in 1998 by researcher Barbara Fredrickson. The thought behind the theory is that the more we focus on good experiences, we will begin to build on positive outcomes and create more of a happiness cycle.
At its most basic, positive emotions are pleasant or desirable responses that you feel when you are satisfied or content. According to Fredrickson, the top positive emotions are joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. While there are many more, these seem to be the ones people connect with the most.
"Positive emotions and mental states may make people more resilient to stress, like sturdy tree branches that bend but don’t break when battered by a storm,” said Melanie Greenberg, author of The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity.
Numerous studies have shown the link between a good mental state and key health indicators like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and unhealthy body weight. Using positive emotions and recalling those experiences leads to improved mental well-being and overall health.
Why is mental and physical health important to an employer? Employee burnout and turnover remain a top issue for employers. Employees feeling overworked and underappreciated is leading many to quit their jobs and reflect on how they are spending their time.
According to a Gallup article, "the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary -- and that's a conservative estimate." They noted that voluntary turnover is costing US businesses roughly $1 trillion dollars, annually. Using positive emotional experiences reduces employee burnout by alleviating mental stress.
Poor mental health also contributes to missed days. One study showed unscheduled absences cost companies, conservatively, between $2600 - $3600 dollars per year, per employee depending on the type of employee.
The financial impact can be significant. Mental (and physical) well-being are the keys to happiness. Creating a happy workplace provides a more collaborative environment, makes people approachable and open to feedback as well as enthusiastic and energetic about solving problems. People want to show up when the environment is fun, happy, and kind.
Studies have concluded that employees' emotional experiences, positive or negative, impact exchanges with co-workers, clients, and vendors. Using positive experience recall helps set the stage for more positive, productive interactions amongst all stakeholders.
Benefits of Using Positive Emotional Experiences in the Workplace
Happy employees are more efficient
Build better, stronger, collaborative teams
Healthy employees miss fewer days at work
Mentally healthy employees contribute more by way of creativity and innovation
Supported employees take a positive approach to solving problems and foster positivity with their colleagues
Ways to use positive emotional experiences to improve employee engagement
Highlight one of the top emotions each week, and ask the team to recount an experience with that emotion, and share daily in your huddles or on your team boards
Begin and end company-wide meetings with positive experiences between customers, colleagues, and/or vendors
Encourage employees to take mental breaks using the 4-7-8 Breathing Method
Schedule quarterly listening sessions, allowing teams to share negative experiences and discuss ways to counteract them
Focusing on employee well-being isn't part of some new-age theory, it is as critical to business success as great customer service, well-run operations, and dependable products. If businesses want to be competitive and consistently achieve financial success, strategic plans must include clearly defined actions supporting employee mental and physical health.