Do you spend your evening stressing about the events of earlier in the day? Bringing the stresses of work home with can not only have a negative impact on your home life, but can affect your productivity in the days that follow as your mind and body are never quite able to de-stress. Theresa Glomb, a work and organizations professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, says it’s important to put yourself in a positive mindset before closing the office door.
“Good things are about three to five times more frequent than bad things at work, but bad events have about five to 10 times the impact as good things,” says Glomb.
Although your day could go perfectly fine, one negative interaction can have you stressed out all day and night. “We pay so much attention to the negative things,” says Glomb, “we sometimes fail to notice the positive things that are going on in our work lives.”
She offers up four micro-interventions, small tasks that can be done at the end of the workday in five minutes or less, that can help to leverage the positive events that occur in our workdays:
1. Keep a positive journal.
Just spending a few minutes jotting down the day’s positive events can help you to detach from work and lower stress levels. Glomb conducted a research study in which participants were asked to write about three good things that happened to them each day. “What we found was people had lower stress levels in the evening. They had lower physical and mental-health complaints. They were more able to detach from their work and they were more able to concentrate in the evening,” says Glomb.
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The three good things don’t have to be work-related. In fact, Glomb says about 40 percent of participants wrote about a positive family interaction. “The whole focus of this intervention is getting people to re-orient on the positive,” says Glomb, who notes the exercise has forced her to take notice of positive events when they happen. “When something good does happen during the day, I’m more likely to latch onto that moment and really try to remember what happened because I want to write about it later,” she says.
But, it’s not enough to simply think about the positive experiences. Writing them down is an important part of this exercise. “There’s something about the writing process causes you to have to consolidate, think about and organize these experiences,” says Glomb. Plus, writing them down allows you to re-live the experiences. If you’re having a particularly bad day in which you’re feeling like nothing is going right, you can flip through your positive journal and be reminded of all the positive things that have happened during the past week or month. “Really what this intervention is about is amplifying the goodness that we’re getting out of these positive experiences,” says Glomb.
2. Take five minutes to meditate.
A brief mindful meditation before you walk out the office door can help you to detach from work and reduce your stress, ensuring you start off your evening in positive state of mind. Mindful meditation allows you to turn your focus inward, concentrating on your breathing and isolating parts of the body to relieve tension.
3. Send a gratitude email.
Glomb says that helping others is a great way to boost your mood. Before closing your email for the day, have the last email you send out be a gratitude email. Send an email to an employee, telling that you’re appreciative of the work that they’re doing, or thank a client for their business. “It does springboard your evening into a more positive one because you’ve left your workplace on a more positive note,” says Glomb.
4. Review your day’s to-do list.
Research shows checking off our accomplishments helps to put us into a more positive mood. Before leaving for the day, review your to-do list and check off all of the tasks you accomplished that day. Didn’t make a list? Make a list for the next day, starting off with a few things that you already accomplished and cross those off before leaving. “One of the key drivers of being in a good mood at work is making progress on your work tasks,” says Glomb.
Prepare yourself for success the next day by prepping your workspace according to the items on your to-do list. If there’s an article you want to read, pull it up on your computer and leave it on the screen so you see it as soon as you open your computer the next day so you can be sure you’ll check off that item from your list before getting sucked into the email abyss.