By Beth Benatti Kennedy, MS, LMFT
One of the first things I do with new leadership coaching clients is check on their well-being. I ask them about their overall health, their energy level, and how they manage stress. I also ask them about those things that nourish the spirit: finding occasions to laugh, celebrate, and have fun; letting yourself be awed by the world around you; or losing yourself in fulfilling activities.
Whoever said laughter is the best medicine knew what they were talking about because laughter sends mood-lifting chemicals to your brain. Some of us don’t have the gift of being naturally funny, but we can keep laughter in our lives by hanging out with friends who make us laugh or watching a funny movie or TV show. Notice how much more relaxed and recharged you feel after you’ve had a good laugh!
Celebration doesn’t have to be saved for a major occasion! I have a tradition of putting confetti in every card I send. It’s my way of reminding others to celebrate the positive events in their lives, and it makes me smile, too. This approach extends to the work environment too. You don’t have to celebrate every positive email, but if you or your team reaches a project milestone or achieves a goal, take time to acknowledge that. If you can, get out of the office for a sit-down lunch or have an ice-cream party on-site. I have coached many leaders and managers and have learned that celebrating team successes generates team resilience, which keeps teams functioning well, even when work is chaotic and stressful.
Having fun at work is another way to recharge. By fun, I mean finding something to enjoy in your workday. This could be going out to lunch once in a while with a colleague or meeting someone for coffee and catching up. An activity that generates fun for some of my clients is participating in a departmental volunteer activity, such as spending an afternoon sorting and packing food at a local food bank. If you travel for business, and are able to add a day or two of personal time, create some fun by taking the opportunity to play tourist at your destination rather than spending all your time in airports, hotels, and conference rooms.
To refresh your spirit, put yourself in the way of awe experiences. Dacher Keltner, a psychologist who heads the University of California, Berkley’s Social Interaction Laboratory, defines awe as “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” It’s easy to think that awe experiences are only available on exotic vacations in stunning locations, but awe might be triggered by being outdoors, attending live performances of music or theater, or simply observing the beauty of a city street with a fresh dusting of snow. These experiences encourage us to be attentive, described by Michelle Shiota, a psychologist at Arizona State University, as the “stop-and-think” phenomenon that makes us more receptive to details and new information.
Flow activities are another way to generate mental and physical energy. Flow activities are those in which you can become totally absorbed, to the point that you often lose track of time. These activities can help you maintain a positive mindset, enhance your performance at work, and even mitigate burnout. I have asked my coaching clients what some of their flow activities are and the list includes playing a musical instrument, writing, painting, gardening, martial arts, swimming, and reading a good book.
Nourish your spirit as well as your body!