Imagine having slides next to the staircases at work. Now this might just be one of my own fantasies, but I reckon zooming down a slide at work would make most people feel better after a hard meeting. And, being faster than walking, it is, of course, an efficiency improvement.
But there is a more serious reason for thinking about how the working environment can be built to help us feel good.
Scientists studying the evolution of human emotions have worked out that emotions create very specific forms of action, each of which increased our human ancestors’ odds of survival and reproduction.
Negative emotions narrow our attention onto something that might hurt our chances of survival if we don’t address it. For example, feeling angry sparks us into taking action to something we think is unjust; feeling sad causes us to withdraw so we can take in a loss mentally and slowly re-gather the energy to re-enter the world.
By contrast, positive emotions broaden our attention, encouraging us to explore and engage with others. This generates long term survival benefits because it drives creativity, helps build social connections and increases environmental knowledge.
Indeed, scientists have worked out that positive emotions have 5 key functions:
- By broadening our attention and cognition, they help us see the big picture, create connections, integrate ideas and become more creative.
- When we feel positive, we are more likely to behave playfully. This builds our physical strength and creates more flexibility in our response to events.
- Positive emotions build intellectual resources because, when we feel good, we engage in better, more persistent problem solving and we master subjects more quickly.
- They build our social resources because feeling good makes us more likely to help people. This creates gratitude which makes it likely that the help is reciprocated; – and this creates stronger relationships.
- And positive emotions actually undo the harm that negative emotions do to our health. They speeds physical recovery and restores our ability to perform after a difficult day.
Each of these 5 acts synergistically with the others. For example, when we feel positive, we are more likely to act playfully which helps us create positive relationships with others and so builds our social resources. When we have a good network we are more likely to have the stimulus that builds our intellectual resources and so creates higher quality results.
So positive emotions fundamentally raise the capacity to perform. And research shows that they can be increased.
So, you might choose to improve positive emotion by installing slides but you can also increase people’s capacity to generate positive emotion for themselves and build leaders’ abilities to evoke it in others. Contact us to find out more.