Five ways to focus on the positive


Many of us believe that once our workplace is running smoothly, then we will have time to be happy – but research actually shows the opposite to be true. When we embrace happiness first, in spite of our circumstances, we strengthen our ability to think creatively and solve problems more efficiently.

At Encompass Health, we strive to focus on the positive as part of our five core values, known as The Encompass Health Way. Through this, we strive to have a positive spirit and find light even in the most difficult situations. We celebrate successes and inspire others to create meaningful impact every day.

While there will always be external circumstances that make our work challenging, deciding to be happy is something we can control. Below are five science-supported activities that can help you focus on the positive – which in turn can increase your resilience, problem-solving abilities and overall quality of life. Pick one of the activities below and try it out with your team.


Research shows that expressing gratitude allows you to notice the good things that already exist.

Action item

There are many ways of expressing gratitude, but an easy way to start is writing down five things a week that you are truly grateful for. Focus on the “why” behind your feelings of gratitude and focus on that as you are writing about them. Make sure you truly feel grateful about them, not just writing what you think you should be grateful for.

Take it to your team

Share this practice with your team and ask people to take turns at the beginning of team meetings highlighting what they are grateful for.

Cultivate optimism

No matter how rough a day was, every day holds the opportunity for something really great to happen.

Action item

Spend 15-30 minutes thinking about what you would like your team to look like six months from now. Write a description of what that goal looks like: describe the interactions that take place, your daily tasks and your team’s outcomes. Hold onto your description, read it daily and think about how good it will feel to reach that goal. Plan small action steps to help you reach it.

Take it to your team

Have your team do the same exercise on their own and ask them to bring in a picture of something that symbolizes their vision. Make a poster for your office or put the pictures on a bulletin board for everyone to see.

Care for your mind and body

We’ve all heard it before, it’s important to take care of our minds and bodies. It’s hard to make yourself the priority, but you can’t take care of others if your vessel is empty.

Action item

Your movement doesn’t have to take place all at once. Make a point of parking a little further from the door than you normally would, stand up while you’re on phone calls, or set a timer that reminds you to stretch every hour.

Take it to your team

Keep some comfortable shoes in the office and turn your one-on-one meetings into walking meetings.

Learn new coping skills

People who create meaning from their adversities are more resilient and are able to find new solutions to old challenges.

Action item

Make a point to look for a lesson in each situation. Consider what skills your current situation is allowing you to develop and focus on mastering them.

Take it to your team

Empower your team to challenge every negative comment they hear with a positive or silver lining. You could even turn this into a game and give people points for every silver lining they find during the week.

Avoid overthinking

Overthinking a difficult situation drains our mental resources. Controlling our thoughts, however, allows us to reclaim cognitive control of our lives.

Action item

Schedule 30 minutes a day to allow yourself to worry or ruminate over difficult situations. When your mind starts to chatter outside of the scheduled time, gently remind yourself that you have some time set aside for that later, but to refocus on the task at hand.

Take it to your team

Challenge your team to not sweat the small stuff. Encourage the team to make posters of the “big stuff.” This could include things like your team’s mission or goals. When the team finds themselves spending time and energy on challenges, have them circle back and decide if this is time well spent or if they are overthinking the small things.

Pari Smart is a professional development specialist for Encompass Health – Home Health & Hospice.