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Updated 16 Jan 2021

The importance of staying positive in a challenging business environment

People want to be happy. On Amazon you can find about 24 000 books dealing with happiness, yet the use of anti-depressants increases every year. The question is thus; why is it so difficult to be positive and achieve happiness? 

Amanda Hamilton-Attwell, 05 September 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Dr Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of the bookBuddha’s Brain (2009), said that human beings are wired to be more negative. The reason is that creatures learned through evolution that being aware of the negative will enable them to live another day!

Unfortunately, most of us still cultivate this behaviour. We focus on the negative, which has a negative impact on our businesses, rather than focusing on the positive and growth enhancing. The good news is that neuroscientists also found that human beings have the ability to ‘re-programme’ these deep neural pathways, because of our brain’s plasticity or ability to change.

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Neuroscience is a fascinating topic. How can we apply what researchers found in laboratories to our lives and our businesses?  How do we remain positive in a sea of negativity? The answer is simple – take the first step. Start by making a decision to be positive. Now that you have made the decision, you can start with the rest of the journey.

Be a more active person 

To be more positive, we need to thicken the insula, a part of our brain that increases our awareness of self and our empathy for others. Basic exercises like a workout in a gym, yoga and dancing will enhance the process. 

Also take time to reflect 

As important as it is to move our bodies, it is as important to be quiet sometimes. You can call it your ‘time-out’ praying, mediation, mind feed or whatever you wish, but allocate time. 

You need at least 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night to prepare for the day or to close it. Also to identify the achievements of the day and be grateful. There is significant research available on the value of quiet time, which enables people to solve problems and gain insights they may lack.

Strive to maintain positivity 

Prepare for positive business conversations. Identify several positive issues in business and in the world and start your conversation with that to set a positive tone. If need be, turn the negative conversation around and make it positive and energetic.

Balance your food intake

Healthy -food

In nature, it is interesting to note how the differences in diet determine the differences in personalities. The chirpy, singing and hopping animals feed primarily on seeds, fruit and the odd insect or worm for proteins. The grumpy, aggressive creatures feed primarily on meat. To be positive – eat less meat and more fruit, vegetables and grain. 

Use technology wisely 

Switch off your computer, mobile phone, Facebook and Twitter and clear your mind. Think of nothing. Close your eyes. Feel the wind on your cheek, hear the birds, the wind chime. You may set an alarm or just sit still for a while. Then open your eyes and get back to work – positive and refreshed.

Keep track of your positive experiences 

List all the positive things you did and solutions you found. List your plans for the next day and for the future.  From time to time, read your journal and see how you’re progressing on the path to positivity.

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Always aim to have more fun

Do not listen to a talk show or news when you get up in the morning. Play energetic music, dance, sing, take a walk through the garden, play with the dog. Wear bright colours. Put a small dustbin in your office with the message – ‘dump your negativity here.’ Tell people you have developed an allergy to negativity. If they do not stop being negative, you will call an ambulance.

These suggestions might sound trivial, but everything possible should be done to ensure that your deep neuro pathways are reprogrammed.

If you find that negative thinking is getting the better of you, consider this quote: “An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.” – Goi Nas

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About the author

Amanda Hamilton-Attwell

Dr Amanda Hamilton-Attwell is the founder and Executive Director of Business DNA - a communication consultancy. She has extensive experience in small business development. Amanda was awarded fellow status of the Gauteng North Chamber of Commerce and Industry for her contribution to the development of business. The National Youth Development Agency contracted her to conduct research into the factors determining the success of entrepreneurs. She completed an internationally acclaimed programme in business coaching. Contact details: [email protected], 012-346-2600 or

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