Want to Boost Your Office Optimism? Try the Tetris Effect

Want to get out of a workplace rut? Create gratitude lists.

Posted Feb 09, 2011

Right about now as we nestle into the rhythm of winter and job New Year's resolutions have come and gone, the author of The Happiness Advantage says one way to get out of a rut and ultimately boost your office optimism is to focus on what he calls "the tetris effect."

According to Shawn Achor, we should write down three things we are grateful for each day for 21 consecutive days. "Research shows that this significantly increases your optimism even six months later as your brain is now stuck in a pattern of scanning the world for the good," he says. Plus, not only did his work at UBS and Adobe show that this increased happiness at work, it also boosted the smile factor at home, too.

Considering Shawn spent over a decade, living, researching and lecturing on this very topic at Harvard University, he recommends highlighting one single, simple activity. "I suggest either writing down three things you are grateful for each morning or writing one two sentence email a day praising or thanking someone in your life. Both of these have been shown to make profound effects in your ability to not only thrive in the midst of a miserable situation, but can walk people out of depression." 

Furthermore, once this list writing ritual becomes part of daily life, it's easy and downright healthy for brains to remain in this state of mind. "Think of the flip," he says. "On bad days, I find myself tallying up and connecting all the bad and unfortunate things that have transpired. But I neglect or ignore anything that is positive that does not fit that pattern. What we need is a new pattern."

Technically, this new pattern creates cognitive shifts and Achor notes when we compartmentalize parts of our lives to scan for errors, we "widen the neural channels toward positive outcomes in the brain."

So, the next time you're bemoaning your boss or dreading a looming deadline, try taking a cue from the author's notepad and focusing on glimmering light of gratitude.

About the Author

Vicki Salemi is a journalist, speaker, former recruiting executive and author of Big Career in the Big City.

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