Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD is a leading scholar within social psychology, affective science, and positive psychology and has been studying and advancing the science of positive emotions for more than 20 years. Among her many achievements and honours, Barbara Fredrickson is most recognised for her “broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions”.
Her research, and the basis of her book, ‘Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life’, explains that in order for us to thrive in life, which Cambridge Dictionary defines as to grow, develop, or be successful, we must have three positive emotional experiences for every one negative emotional experience.
In addition to just “feeling good”, among the many psychological benefits, the experience of positive emotions broadens our mind, increases creativity, and makes us more resourceful and more resilient towards things like stress, which, in turn, positively affects all areas of our life including our satisfaction at work, our social connections, productivity and more. Just imagine what positive emotions do when it comes to employee engagement.
Dr Fredrickson identified the following as the ten most common positive emotions: Joy, Gratitude, Serenity, Interest, Hope, Pride, Amusement, Inspiration, Awe, Love.
Below, we provide examples of how these positive emotions can be experienced in the workplace and how they can increase workplace wellbeing:
While the feeling of joy is momentary and usually the direct result of an experience, sustained happiness can be increased by cultivating more moments of joy. A way to experience joy in the workplace could be gathering the team and celebrating every time a sale is made. It could be recognising and publicly acknowledging your employees’ efforts. Additionally, joy could be experienced through work social opportunities such as sports teams and after work events.
Gratitude is being thankful for what you have as opposed to focusing on what you don’t have. Gratitude in the workplace could be thanking a colleague when they help you with a task, being thankful that you get to use your skills at work, or just being grateful that you have a job which enables you to live comfortably.
Serenity is a state of peacefulness and being content with what you have. At work, serenity is remaining calm under pressure, and when one is completely present with the task one is doing instead of thinking of everything else on the “to do” list. Serenity is perhaps the ultimate state of engagement, where one experiences a sense of flow.
In our blog How Curiosity Creates Happiness in the Workplace, we explain how curiosity can lead us to discover new skills, new ideas, and new interests, as well as improve our memory and our connection to our colleagues. This could mean being interested and engaged in an idea, a concept, or a project, which then opens our mind to new strategies, solutions, and ideas.
Despite any negative experience, hope is the belief that things will work out for the best, that things will get better. Hope is perhaps the greatest form of optimism – a key characteristic for employee wellbeing. Hope keep pushes us forward and keeps us going. At work, hope can mean that despite any setbacks or criticism, we believe that things will improve and that we will be successful in what we set out to achieve.
It’s important to celebrate your accomplishments especially when you succeed in doing something you thought was unattainable, when you exceed expectations (one of Benify’s three core values) or achieve something which took a lot of time and effort.
Pride at work could mean recognising that you led your team well, acknowledging your own worth and contribution, and patting yourself on the back for a job well done.
The saying that you shouldn’t take life too serious also applies to the workplace. When it comes to workplace wellbeing, feeling connected to our colleagues is vital. And what better way than to share a laugh and see the humour in things? It’s equally important that we can also laugh at ourselves including for any mistakes we may have made.
Be it through a powerful speech, art, music, nature, film or sports, inspiration can be found in anything, anywhere, anytime. Inspiration as a result of witnessing something that sparks your interest, moves you deeply, or makes your heart sing, can lead to innovation, increased focus, greater motivation, and even a state of flow.
Among its countless benefits, inspiration in the workplace can help build and motivate teams, increase employee engagement, formulate new strategies, or conceptualise new ideas.
While inspiration can motivate one to take action, awe is experiencing the feeling of wonder, marvel and deep appreciation. At work, awe could be taking a step back to look at what your team has achieved and taking in the magnificence of their work.
Awe can, in turn, also lead to inspiration. For example, being in awe of a colleague’s abilities or characteristics could inspire you to do the same, pushing you beyond what you thought was capable.
When it comes to positive emotions, there is none more powerful than love. When we experience love, we feel connection and elation.
One of our three core values at Benify is Show Love. Allow yourself to be seen and let others be seen. At work, let your colleagues know how much you appreciate them. Show respect, show care, show love. Showing love is the best way to build a workplace culture of caring, trust, and unity.
So, which of these positive emotions have you experienced in the workplace recently, and how have they increased your engagement and wellbeing? Want to learn more about employee wellbeing? Download our free Employee Happiness Index!