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Don't Worry, Be Happy - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy: How Workplace Happiness Leads to Success

August 6th, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Downsizing, job layoffs and a 9.7% unemployment rate have all lowered the morale of millions of working Americans. But what happens when the workplace blues affects your performance?

So why do we get so negative at work?

There are several reasons:

  • Brains Cued for Blues: Negative thinking has a life of it is own and is generated by a neurological circuitry that is reinforced each time you become negative. Even though you may have the best of intentions, your brain kicks into negativity with the first challenge. You experience a sudden startup of the blues without even thinking about it.
  • Emotional Contagion: Emotions are contagious and we are all vulnerable to the “infectious negativity” that dominates millions of offices, especially in a beleaguered economy. Negativity is catching and according to the Wharton School of Business, we see decreased cooperation, an increase of interpersonal conflict and a decreased sense of accomplishment.
  • Bullies, Divas and “Emotional Vampires”: Bullies, divas and emotional vampires dominate the workplace and are often in positions of power and influence. They love to ruin your day. They magnify the downside and minimize the upside. Cutting comments, worst-case scenarios and reviewing past injuries drag everyone down. We marinate in this pessimism and then wonder why we get so negative.
  • Cubicle Downers: The physical cues of the workplace can trigger you for stress. Just entering your office space makes your mood down a few points. Studies show that environment influence mindset in a profound way. Boring walls, industrial carpet and uncomfortable furniture trigger us to “go negative” the minute we walk in the door.

You may be wondering if there is a gender difference in this phenomenon and here it is:

Women are more susceptible to workplace negativity due to three factors.

  • Emotional Brain Overload: Our emotional memory capacity is twice that of a man’s so we are able to remember everything that others say and do, good and bad. Grudge holding is especially tempting for women.
  • Women Love Emotional Garbage: Women are especially vulnerable to picking up the emotional “garbage” of others and then wondering why they feel bummed out. In addition, we engage in too much gossiping which spreads negativity like wildfire.
  • Need for Consensus: Our overriding need for consensus is an asset and a liability. Too many of us grieve when there is dissension and worry about why things are negative at work. We blame ourselves and blame each other.

Here are some tips to shift your mood when you feel your negativity rising:

Quickly switching your mood is a discipline, not an event. It requires psychological “muscle” that you build over time by actively fighting against the downward spiral each time it occurs. Negativity reinforces negativity but the reverse is also true of positive thinking.

Here are some quick tips that work every time:

  • Don’t Deny the Negative: Do not deny the existence of negative events, just deal. You won’t solve your problem by ruminating. Worrying just makes you overestimate the problem. Remind yourself that this situation is not permanent, and that you will survive.
  • Disciplined Attention: Next apply a disciplined attention to the positives and to the possible. Redirect away from panic and focus on the small steps you need to take today to remedy the situation now. Then outline the remaining steps to resolving the problem. Break it down and keep it simple. Remind yourself that you can make a difference in improving the outcome.
  • Directed Mental Force: List your blessings, your advantages, and your strengths while expressing gratitude for all you have been given. Train your brain to appreciate the good things about work and the fact that you still have your job in a harsh economy.
  • Mood Stabilization: Sustainable happiness requires a constant shifting away from the negative and a disciplined embracing of the positives. You may have setbacks, but by remaining stable in your mood, your accuracy about reality will increase along with your job success.

Right-Brain Advantages In The New Economy - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Right-Brain Advantages In New Economy

Jul 16, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

As the American economy continues to struggle, many of us are focused on performing at our maximum capacity in the workplace. The secret to your job security in the new economy may involve a new kind of thinking using your right brain.

What are the differences and advantages of each side of the brain?

What versus How: We know that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, left and right. People with dominant left sides are better at analytical analysis and processing and language skills. Right “brainers” are global holistic processors, which means that they are great at inventiveness, empathy and emotional intelligence. To oversimplify, the left hemisphere handles “what” is said while the right hemisphere focuses on “how” it is said. The non-verbal emotional cues delivered through intonation, facial expression and silences are the province of the right brain. They have never been more important.

Whole Brain is Better: The work place will no longer exclusively reward the analytical, numbers crunching individuals and will now recognize right brain problem solvers who use their innovation and emotional intelligence to achieve the best outcome. We are basically looking at a new worker who marries their right brain innovative thinking with their left-brain skill sets. The keys to the future belong to a person who can be creative and empathic, can recognize patterns in business and see the big picture quickly while analyzing and critically thinking.

You may be wondering how this applies to you.

The complexity of business problems we all face now calls for a new type of intelligence that is not based just on academic abilities and information processing. Our advances in technology are eradicating the need for rote performance and recitation and many of these jobs have been outsourced. People who use their right brain thinking to solve complex problems are more difficult to outsource since you cannot have the creative, innovative and emotionally intelligent workers on the other side of the world.

Here’s how right brain thinking looks in the work place:

  • Emotionally Engaging: They are exceptional at creating emotionally engaging products. They understand motivations and emotions well and use them to solve business problems.
  • Persuasive Narratives: Our workplace is rife with information and too many facts. Right brainers are brilliant at communicating persuasively and are compelling presenters.
  • Analysis Versus Synthesis: No longer are we chiefly charged with the analysis of a problem but we are also charged with creating a big picture out of disparate parts.
  • Empathy Matters: Emotional Intelligence helps you to not only understand and accurately perceive your own emotions in “real time,” it also gives you the empathy to understand co-workers and clients.
  • Playfulness: The mind requires rest to re-boot and restore it’s creative processes. Right “brainers” are clever, humorous people who know how to “downshift” into a lower gear. They go slower to go further.
  • Purpose and Spiritual Fulfillment: Creativity originates in a mind free to explore, wonder and admire. Right brainers make their greatest discoveries when they are given the freedom to “play” with solutions and immerse themselves in novelty. Brilliant insights come at such moments.

Whenever this comes up in my practice, people always ask me, “Can I learn to use my ‘right brain’ skills?”

Without a doubt, people can learn to use both sides of their brains to achieve the most success. Neuroscience now tells us that emotions, moods and states such as compassion can be trainable skills. With mental training in visualization, meditation and accurate, rational thinking, an individual can literally create positive, performance enhancing changes in the brain. With increased emotional control, we can restrict the negative, inaccurate thoughts that cloud our mind facilitating a lot more effective “brain power.” You become an “attentional athlete” which allows you to focus on solution rather than on confusion. Suddenly, precise resolution appears within complexity and a mindset of well-being becomes pervasive.

Sources for this story include the following:

Dr. Richard Davidson’s work in Neuroscience

"Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain," Sharon Begley

"A Whole New Brain" by Daniel H. Pink

Teen Sleep Crisis - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teen Sleep Crisis: How Sleep Loss Causes Depression

June 11, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Most of us as parents struggle with getting our teenagers to bed on time. Sports, school and socializing all postpone bedtime in a busy teen’s life but a major new study now reports that sleep loss can be dangerous. A new study of 15,000 teens sends some serious warnings to American parents.

This “just released” study from Columbia University is the first to examine the direct effect of sleep loss on the emotional health of an adolescent.

  • More Depression: Teens whose parents allow them to stay up past midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens in bed by 10 P.M.
  • Suicidal Thinking: Less sleep can contribute to suicidal thinking. Kids who stay up late are 30% more likely to have suicidal thoughts in the past year.
  • Underestimates of Current Teen Distress: These statistics may underrate the severity of teen distress. With social networking sites and smart phones, kids are more active into the night and often refuse to comply with parental commands. It is easy to play on your iPhone into the next morning!

You may be wondering why lack of sleep is such a big deal for kids. There are a variety of problems when kids don’t get enough sleep:

  • Psychological Weakness: Kids who get less sleep are more impulsive, process their environment less accurately, become more helpless and descend into ineffectiveness.
  • Slippage of Grades: Academics are a huge problem for sleep-deprived kids — the less focus you have, the more distracted you are, and the less effectively you integrate new knowledge.
  • Loss of Emotional Stability: Even if they can tolerate sleep loss and still make grades, there is a psychological price that is paid in interpersonal diplomacy, regulation of emotions, and a general build up of frustration.
  • Obesity: Obesity is highly correlated with sleep loss. Teens are less likely to work out and eat moderately when they’re exhausted.
  • Driving Safety: Most fatal teen driving accidents involve sleep loss. Since kids need more sleep than adults, they are particularly vulnerable to carelessness on the road and falling asleep at the wheel.

There are a number of ways to get kids to go to sleep earlier. Here are a few ideas:

  • Eliminate Stimulants: Cut out the stimulants in kids’ lives, things like coffee, sodas and in some rare cases, amphetamines. They will go to bed earlier if they aren’t on a caffeine high!
  • Avoid Yo Yo Scheduling: Also, don’t allow your kids to do what is called “yo-yo scheduling” where they go to sleep late during the week and then go to sleep even later on the weekend! The lack of sleep on weekends has long standing effects on sleep patterns and melatonin levels, and kids often go back in to the work week more tired than they were on Friday!
  • Keep It Pleasant: Don’t engage in emotional conversations close to bedtime. Conflict interferes with regular sleep patterns and kids have a hard time settling down for the night.
  • If you want to know how to get your kids to sleep beyond these tips, the bad news is that there is no magic solution. There really is only one way to get your kids to bed:

    • Set Strong Limits: High school and college age kids average around 6.1 hours of sleep a night when they need 9.25 hours a night, on average. There is no way around it – parents must set stronger limits so their kids will sleep more! Your kids will have to experience that disappointment, but in the end you will also see improved performance both in the classroom and on the field.
    • Quick Emotional Benefits: Beyond the obvious benefits in school, adequate sleep can have a tremendous effect on your child’s mental health. Everything from mood to concentration to safety in the car can be improved. Even behavioral and academic problems can disappear with adequate amounts of sleep.

    Emotional Intelligence - By Chris Gearing

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Emotional Intelligence

    February 26, 2009

    Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

    The nation’s jobless claims jumped more than expected last week and over five million Americans continue to receive unemployment benefits. The number of new unemployment claims is the highest in more twenty-six years. Psychologists are now saying that surviving the ongoing challenges is directly linked to using your emotional intelligence.

    Emotional intelligence is like having good emotional software that allows you to be smart in a different way. Managing your emotions when the “chips are down” builds self-confidence and the confidence of those around you. Emotional intelligence refers to those essential qualities of emotional self-management coupled with the effective management of others. When adversity hits, you are armed and ready to handle anything.

    Success at work depends directly on your ability to handle yourself emotionally. You cannot perform if you cannot think and emote effectively. You cannot allow your emotions to run away with your mind. All too often, we act in emotionally unintelligent ways that can be both unproductive and even devastating. Increasing your emotional intelligence can make the difference between surviving and thriving in the current economy. Emotional intelligence trumps book smarts every time.

    Emotional intelligence is a specific set of skills that can be built and cultivated over time. They allow you to combine your best thinking skills with your best emotional skills.

    1.) Knowing One’s Emotions: Self-awareness and the ability to recognize a feeling as it happens is a key characteristic of emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor your emotions in real time is vital. Other wise, your emotions end up running you.

    2.) Managing Emotions: Handling feelings so they are appropriate is an ability that comes from self-awareness. Being able to dispute the discouragement of setbacks and failures is vital to your ability to move forward.

    3.) Motivating Oneself: Channeling your emotional energy to meet a goal is central if you are going to be effective. At the same time, emotional self-control enables you to bend all efforts in the service of a worthwhile goal such as finding a job or keeping a job.

    4.) Recognizing Emotions in Others: Empathy is the ability to identify compassionately with the challenges of others and it is an essential skill for dealing with adversity.

    5.) Handling Relationships: The art of effective relating is managing the emotions of other people. Leadership and interpersonal effectiveness are driven by an ability to understand and manage the people around you.

    According to studies, emotional intelligence is on the decline especially in the younger generations who seemed to feel entitled to achievement without earning it.

    A recent survey of American employers by the Hay Group found the following:

    • More than 50% of the people who work for them lack motivation.
    • Forty percent seem to have difficulty working cooperatively with others.

    Seventy percent of all change initiatives are not netting the desired results due to people issues such as poor levels in leadership, working together in teams, taking initiative, dealing with change, etc.

    Assess Your Stress: If you have a history of trauma, depression and anxiety, you may have more intense reactions to economic stress. People who have a history of depression have twice the intensity rates to economic adversity. We are just more apt to descend into a negative spiral and lose the capacity to extricate ourselves from negativity.

    Use Your Mind and Your Emotions: Disregarding your good common sense when you are in the clutch of negative emotions is damaging, especially in the business world. Do not allow your emotions to engulf your reasoning ability.

    Measure for Accuracy: Perception is not reality especially if you are inaccurate in your interpretation of the events around you. Learn to curb your overreactions to people and events and to take a measured approach to difficult situations. Job acquisition and sustainability may have more to do with your people skills than with your intellectual abilities.


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