How should successful entrepreneurs start their day? Some, like me, immediately crack open the newspaper. And for everyone else — whether your primary morning focus is working out at the gym, making coffee or driving to work — you’re likely consuming the news in some form, whether it’s turning the dial on the radio or glimpsing TV updates while you’re on the elliptical machine. That may be a great way to stay informed, but it could potentially be damaging to your mental well-being, according to a new study conducted by happiness researchers Michelle Gielan and Shawn Achor, in partnership with Arianna Huffington, who has become an advocate of well-being in the workplace.
The trick isn’t to embrace ignorance and eschew all news, said Gielan in a recent email interview. Instead, she says, it’s to steer your news consumption — especially first thing in the morning — toward stories of human resilience. In their study, recounted in Gielan’s newly released book Broadcasting Happiness, they divided up study participants into two groups. Each group watched a three-minute news video in the morning; one group’s video was negative, and the other showed stories of people overcoming challenges by working hard.
Six to eight hours later, those watching the negative news were 27 percent more likely to report having had a bad day, while those watching the positive video were 88 percent more likely to report having a good day. “If we are really interested in performance, this study strongly suggests the information we consume early in the morning can have a lasting effect on the trajectory of our day,” says Gielan, who is the founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research. So how can entrepreneurs harness the power of starting your day right? Here are her top tips:
Curate your news intake.
Instead of starting the day by scanning your inbox or the day’s headlines, says Gielan, consciously choose the content you consume. Even just a few minutes of reading an inspirational book or listening to a motivational podcast can pay dividends. If you have employees, you can also help them begin the day on a positive footing. “In my work with high-performing directors at Google,” says Gielan, “one of them has been sending out Happy Friday emails of recent successes from people on her team, so they start the last day of the work week…feeling motivated to finish out the work week strong.”
Spreading positivity one-to-one benefits both you and the recipient. Gielan suggests sending a two-minute email praising or thanking a friend, family member or colleague each day. “That activates people in your network in a meaningful way that strengthens bonds,” she says. There may be a tangible benefit, as well. “Providing social support in the form of kind words at work has been connected with increasing the chances of promotion by 40 percent over the next year.”
Steer the conversation.
Your mood impacts others, and Gielan notes that you can seize those opportunities to enhance everyone’s experience. When someone asks how you’re doing, focus on the positive rather than complaining. That doesn’t mean putting up a false front, but she notes, “Authenticity is key, but too often it’s not that we are not feeling positive – it is that we don’t speak up.” Additionally, you can start meetings with a question that elicits positive thoughts from the group, such as “What’s one way a colleague of yours has made your job easier recently?” or “What’s one win you or someone you work with has had that we don’t know about?” Even five minutes spent recounting good news, she says, “is an incredible investment in future successes and the social cohesion of the group.”
It may be hard to believe that less than five minutes can impact the entire course of your day. But Gielan’s new research shows that happiness, and the productivity that comes along with it, may be easier to attain than we think.