At the recent Safety Charter wellbeing event run by Kevin Hurl, there were quite a few important takeaways. The main one for me was on our human thought processes, and how our thoughts have a significant impact on our emotions and actions. Consider the following information.
- Humans on average have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day
- 80% of those thoughts are negative.
- 95% are the same thoughts that we had the day before.
To me these statistics are quite staggering. The human brain seems to behave like Teflon for positive thoughts and Velcro for negative ones. As a result, we are continually swimming against a tide of negative thoughts which are somehow stuck in our brains. It is easy to understand how an individual can get into a downward spiral of negativity which can obviously affect our mood and how we react to life events.
Considering these statistics, the ability to somehow manage our thoughts becomes very important, and learning tools to assist in this can have a beneficial effect in many areas of our lives. It is impossible to stop the negative thoughts, these are always going to be there, but maybe there are ways to lessen their impact and longevity.
The first stage might be as simple as awareness. If we can recognize when a negative thought occurs in our head and simply call it out for what it is. Turn it over, examine it, and realise that a negative thought is all that it is. It only exists in your mind, and you are the one who gets to decide how much weight to give it. We can then ask ourselves if we have had that thought before, and the odds are that we also had it yesterday. We could then ask what prompted the thought today, and maybe delve into why it occurred again. If we can think of each thought as a discrete bubble, it is easier to imagine them floating away.
Kiwis are a very humble lot, and we sometimes find it awkward to celebrate our successes like they do in other countries. The next step might be to accentuate the positive thoughts and try to make them stick around for longer. Here a feeling of gratitude can really help, and reminding ourselves of the important things that we are grateful for. If our gratitude exceeds our expectations, we tend to have good days.
But what effect does this have on health and safety? I see two main cross-over points. The first is that most Health & Safety Managers and Advisors are essentially in the caring business. They are motivated by looking out for and looking after their fellow workers. The rule here is that we cannot look out for others without first looking out for ourselves, and the more work we do in handling our own wellbeing enables us to better respond to others.
Second is that our emotional state affects our decision-making process. The equation ‘outcome = event + response’ is an important one to consider. Negative events will always happen, but the outcome of these events depends primarily on how we respond. Our emotional state influences how any one of us reacts to a particular event. If we can better manage our thoughts, we can better respond to adverse events and produce a better outcome.
If this topic interests you, the Charter is planning a more detailed follow-up to Kevin’s original workshop.
Details can be found in this newsletter.
Paul Duggan, General Manager