We all know that it’s hard to be creative and successful at work when we are feeling negative and stressed. Now take a moment to imagine: what would work be like if, instead of feeling negative and stressed, you felt more positive, creative, productive, resilient and engaged? According to studies in positive psychology and neuroscience, you can experience these and more benefits by increasing your own happiness and the happiness of those you work most closely with.
The research is abundantly clear: happier brains do better work.
One way to maximize the happiness and productivity of your team is to specifically set aside time to apply research-based strategies. At Happy Brain Science, we have curated many activities that we facilitate in our workshop The Science of Being Happy and Productive at Work. These happiness workshop activities help employees to increase optimism, boost brain function, and build team trust through shared experiences.
Happiness Workshop Activity # 1 – Start Meetings with Recognitions
Most of us are missing our team’s best work by tolerating mostly negative comments—while pointing out errors may sometimes be necessary, failing to praise the positive produces a negative environment and pushes brains into a “minimize risk” mode. Instead, you can elicit a broaden and build response, by specifically setting aside time to express gratitudes at the beginning of meetings. Expressing and receiving gratitude increases happiness, sets a positive tone to the meeting or workshop, and puts brains into a positive, creative and problem-solving state.
Suggestion for applying this happiness workshop activity: At your next team meeting, share about the science of how expressing gratitude increases happiness and brain function; ask each employee to come prepared to the next meeting with recognition(s) they’d like to express to at least one other person on the team—the recognitions could be verbal, written down, or shared in some other way. Test and learn with this activity to find out what works best for your team.
Happiness Workshop Activity #2 – Go on a Walking One-on-One
We all know that exercise is fantastic for brain function and managing stress. What you may not have known is that when your body is physically active it begins to produce more Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), which acts like a fertilize for brain cell development. Walking one-on-one meetings allow you to combine physical activity and social connection during a meeting, leading to increased happiness, creativity and comradery. As John Cacioppo explains, social connections are a huge factor in happiness, which leads to better brain function.
Suggestion for applying this happiness workshop activity: During your next training session or informative team meeting, ask attendees to pair up and go on a “walking one-on-one”. Give them a specific reflective question to focus on and answer during the walk. When attendees return, ask if anyone would like to share any insights from their walk.
Happiness Workshop Activity #3 – Present Pecha Kuchas
A Pecha Kucha presentation is one of the best ways we’ve experienced to build team trust quickly. In a nutshell, a Pecha Kucha is simply a personal slide show, containing 10 pictures with each picture being on screen for 10 seconds—the key is that each slide must contain pictures from an employee’s life outside of the office. According to this study, the feeling of ‘belonginess’ has strong effects on brain function and well-being. Knowing who our co-workers are, outside of their work lives, enables us to connect over who we are as individuals.
Suggestion for applying this happiness workshop activity: Download and share the template with team members, and ask them to prepare their own unique Pecha Kucha presentation. At each upcoming team meeting, ask 1-2 people to stand up and present their pecha kucha until each person on the team has had an opportunity to share.
Happiness Workshop Activity #4 – Share Your ‘Best Possible Future’
Researchers have found that writing about your goals–and successfully reaching them–can help you to gain insight into your priorities and emotions, increase feelings of control, improve performance, and boost happiness. Writing your Best Possible Future is a science-based and effective tool for creating a compelling personal vision while also boosting optimism and well-being.
Suggestion for applying this happiness workshop activity: Ask each employee to write his or her Best Possible Future at work for three years from now. Facilitate a meeting where each employee shares his or her best possible future–by doing this, each person learns more about what their colleagues enjoy to do and what they hope to learn and accomplish in the near future. If you’d like additional guidance, you can access this Best Possible Future template.
Happiness Workshop Activity #5 – Play a Game Together
According to Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, “play is one of the most powerful (and least used) strategies for improving human performance.” Games provide a safe place to approach issues that might be hard to discuss in real life, and can help to create connections and build trust among players. Utilizing games and play in meetings adds emotion to learning through clear rules for engagement and opportunities for immediate and valuable feedback.
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