Optimist Day is a global annual celebration falling on the first Thursday of February. The day’s key theme is focussed on building and sustaining a positive future!
The World Health Organisation says: “Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems”. Furthermore, depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is +USD 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
But what is an optimist?
An optimist is someone who has positive views about their place in life and the future. Ultimately, an optimist is more likely to think good things will happen and can see the positive side of many situations, but there are wider benefits too! It is simply a state of mind, about creating new ways of thinking, acting and behaving, but also how we work with and respond to one another.
With the geopolitical and global economic backdrop currently being faced by us all, we have never experienced this level of permanent uncertainty before! We are undergoing times of permanent change. In times of uncertainty and change, being an optimist, all the time is hard. We’re not perfect and have to work on it unless of course you’re lucky enough to be a natural-born optimist.
It helps people deal better with the negative experiences, and grow, since they have perceived setbacks as opportunities for growth, as well as protecting against depression — even for people who are at risk for it. An optimistic outlook makes people more resistant to stress!
Optimism and business culture
An optimist is more than someone who just believes things will work out, as they are also people who work hard to build a positive future. Similarly, optimism also makes people have a better disposition. Unlike their cynical counterparts, they offer hope and positivity to the people, which then also helps them forge good social relationships. As humans are social animals, therefore, having better relationships is good for mental health as well.
Business culture is a key part of the employee value proposition and, as businesses continue in the “war for talent”, a core recruitment and retention tool! If you have an optimistic team or employee(s), optimism is what allows for sustainable and prolonged growth, and positive workplace culture. It drives successful outcomes for both individual and business performance.
Whereas pessimism will slowly bring people down, create strains on relationships and could lead to a negative and toxic workplace culture – one that contains dysfunctional behaviour, poor communication, and even low morale. This naturally impacts individual mental health and leads to poor Wellbeing outcomes.
Poor mental health and conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide, are a growing problem across the globe. The wider impact to family, friends and colleagues cannot be measured.
The impact on your wellbeing
Helen Keller is worth remembering – keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. Maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude to life is the best way to avoid being overtaken by negative, pessimistic thoughts. Optimism has such a significant impact on your mental and physical Wellbeing. Research shows an optimistic outlook carries (certain) advantages, such as better health, greater achievement, less stress, and greater longevity.
For me, it is clear – in the current state of the global and domestic economies, Wellbeing and optimism play integral roles in the resilience of our workforce.
I definitely take the glass-half-full approach, but when the glass-half-empty feeling creeps in, it provides a chance to stop, think and, importantly, reassess the situation. As an optimist, I focus more on what I have, and what more can be done (with half a glass of water) than seeing that half the glass is empty and will eventually have nothing left in it!
Let’s take a moment, every day – not just on February 2 – to think about how we can adjust our state of mind. That half-full glass has lots left in it!
The article is written by Adam Riley.
Deputy Group Practice Leader Health & Benefits
Nowadays, more and more companies are starting to realise the accepted traditional benefits offering is no longer relevant or appropriate, and the one-size-fits-all approach is a thing of the past.