Certain things in life are unavoidable: Rain, death, taxes, and bitching about your job. Even if you’re committed to what you do, odds are you often moan and groan about your crazy boss, the colleague who never pulls his or her weight, how your salary’s a joke, the fact that the damn water cooler’s always busted. However, if you want to excel at work, science suggests you ease up on all the negativity, and dwell on the positive. Before you go rolling your eyes, it’s easier than it sounds.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a team of researchers used something called the “three good things” intervention—a method usually used to lift the spirits of mildly depressed people—for three weeks with a group of working adults at outpatient family-practice clinics. After each business day, participants were asked to sign onto a website and complete a survey that asked them to spend five to 10 minutes writing about three things—big or small—that had gone well for them.
As the research pointed out—which was published in the Academy of Management Journal—folks’ responses ranged from an especially tasty lunch to being praised by a respected colleague, and after three weeks stress levels and complaints started to decline. Plus, by honing in on specific positive things, participants had an easier time switching off negative work-related thoughts when they got home at night.
It should be noted that a control group wasn’t used in the experiment, so it’s hard to take the findings as fact, but let’s not forget about a study published last March, which found that spending a ton of time grousing about your job may actually make you worse at the work you do.
Obviously, it’s human nature to complain—evolution has made us keenly aware of things we perceive as negative—but perpetually harping on things that suck can take a hefty toll on your stress levels, your mental health, even your relationships, so finding time to focus on three measly things that made you happy today should be a requirement. And if you can’t do it? It might be time to dust off that resumé.