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Is ‘quiet thriving’ the new workplace trend we should all be channelling?

If ‘quiet quitting’ was your workplace buzzword for 2022, then maybe this year's more optimistic trend, ‘quiet thriving’, might just be the positive outlook you need.

By the end of last year, we were all quiet quitting something, be it our relationships or our jobs – that is, doing the bare minimum in a situation that you don't believe is serving you or rewarding you in the way you feel you deserve.

But while it's a tempting thought to mentally check out of your job, it can actually have a pretty negative effect on your mood and may even make you feel even more unfulfilled at work. So, introducing the antithesis to quiet quitting: quiet thriving.

Coined by psychotherapist Lelsey Alderman in an article for The Washington Post, the term ‘quiet thriving’ means actively making changes to your work day in order to shift your mental state and help you feel more engaged in your job.

And as neuroscientist and success coach Laura Ellera tells GLAMOUR, it isn't really in our nature to do the bare minimum at work.

“Let’s be honest, it’s not always possible to just up and quit our jobs when they are causing us distress, even though we might want to. So, whilst we can choose to settle into ‘just getting by’ and practicing quiet quitting, this in the long run will not be best for your mental health,” she says.

“We are built to thrive as human beings – we are naturally inquisitive and even if we say we’re happy just doing the bare minimum until something better comes along, deep down we feel that lack of purpose. We notice the clock ticking as our careers seem to drift by us. We are nagged by that feeling that there’s got to be more to life than this,” she adds.

“And, even if you could leave that role, you may not find the fulfilment you crave if you haven’t worked on yourself first. No job alone will give us that deep down satisfaction that we all desire. We want to make a difference. We need to be appreciated. There is a drive to reach our full potential, whether we care to admit it to ourselves or not. So quiet quitting, whilst it may feel like sticking two up to the establishment, is actually doing the same right back at you.”

For Laura, quiet thriving allows us to take back control of our wellbeing at work – and it involves two elements: “The mental switch that we need to work through in order to see our career from a different, more positive angle, and the physical actions we take in order to shape the reality of the role into one that makes us excited to go to work again.”

Here's how you can try quiet thriving for yourself…

Take back control

“A great place to start is to think about which parts of your job frustrate you, and which parts light you up,” says Laura. "Really get clear on the different aspects of your role and what they mean to you. Then take the parts that frustrate you, and ask yourself honestly, which parts of this do I have control over? Which parts do I have some influence over? And which parts are completely out of my control?

"If you believe your boss is an overbearing fool, you have no control over how they behave, but you do have control over how you react to their behaviour. So go through each of the points (good and bad) and mark ‘control’, ‘influence’ or ‘no control’. It’s then down to you to take the parts that light you up and you have control over, and to work out a plan to incorporate more of that into your every day.

“Look at the parts that frustrate you but you have control over, and work out how you can get less of that in your day. Once you’ve worked on these, go onto the things that you have influence over and do the same. Then consciously agree to let go of the things you have no control over. But know that even with these, you always have control over how you choose to react to them. And it is a choice.”

Learn to soothe your nervous system

“When we get stressed, we lose full access to parts of our brain as the body is focusing on more imminent threats (previously the hungry lion, now the looming deadline or the angry looking boss heading your way). We also lose the ability to communicate properly and build connections with others when our body is in this threat mode, both of which are imperative for our workplace success and mental wellbeing.

"So to step out of this threat mode, we need to learn to soothe our nervous system and we can do this by starting to become more aware of how our body is feeling in the moment. Are you breathing deeply, are your shoulders and jaw relaxed, are you feeling calm? Or are you taking short breaths in the top of your chest, feeling like you’re about to explode?

“Set a reminder on your phone to repeat every hour and when it goes off, just take notice. Become aware of what’s happening internally. Allow yourself the grace of taking three, long, deep breaths in and exhale as slowly as you can through pursed lips, imagining you’re breathing out through a straw. This allows your nervous system to calm and means that your body can function fully and your brain can work optimally – because you can’t thrive in your job if your body is stuck in threat mode.”

Connect with others

It takes a lot of energy for our body to function properly and a lot of the time, we are taking more out of it than we are replenishing. This means we end up in an energy deficit and that’s when we feel sluggish, sleepy or downright exhausted.

“One thing that can help us to feel rejuvenated is to connect with people that make us feel safe,” says Laura. "People who feel good to be around. This is when we can co-regulate our nervous systems (we move into step with other people’s breathing and heart rate rhythm when we are relaxed with them) and this can give us more energy and motivation in our work day. The key to this is making sure these relationships are built with growth in mind so not hanging around with the group that spend their time complaining about work or their boss.

“You also need to be able to trust that person as although the best thing for your nervous system is another human being, the worst thing for your nervous system is also another human being if they make you feel unsafe in any way shape or form. So connecting with your colleagues has greater benefits than just feeling good. It can actually help to regulate your entire body, give you more energy and therefore allow you to thrive in your career.”

Have a break

According to Laura, there's no harm in taking time to reset – it may even help with your productivity (depending on what you do, of course).

“We were not built to concentrate for 12 hours straight a day,” she says. "Studies have found that we can only really concentrate on a task for around an hour at a time before our brain starts to wander. So as you push on throughout the day, you’re actually getting less and less efficient at your work and are more and more likely to make mistakes. So take a break.

“Split the day up into chunks where you can and make sure you get up, move and have a break. I get my clients to use the Pomodoro Technique where they set timers (I use 25 minute intervals) where they focus solely on one task at a time and when the timer goes off, they can either reset it and continue for another 25 minutes if it’s going well, or get up and have a break. This will make you so much more productive and helps you to get more done in your day. The breaks allow your brain to rest, your concentration to reset and if you add a mini reward for getting that task done (such as a 5 minute walk outside, or a coffee from the office cafe), your body will anticipate the reward and hit you with a shot of dopamine (the feel good hormone), making you more likely to do it again.”

Prioritise your health and sleep

“If you’re struggling with finding the love for your work, this isn’t going to be improved by crawling into the office late, tired and with a hangover,” says Laura. "Our mental health depends on our brain health and when we don’t look after our brain, this is when everything seems to get harder.

“And this makes appreciating your role and working towards a better career path more difficult if you’re feeling generally rubbish. So ensure you’re starting your working day from the best place possible. Your brain thrives when it is nourished with the right nutrients, hydrated with water and rested with 7-9 hours of sleep. All the stuff that is common sense, but often not common practice. So taking stock of where your health is right now. Because that has a direct impact on your brain health. And that has a direct impact on how you are going to be showing up at work and in your life in general.”

Be proactive

Whilst not every role out there has the wiggle room to dramatically change, there are always more ways to mould the role than we believe, according to Laura.

"As you’ve already highlighted the things that light you up over the things that drain you, it’s now up to you to shape your role into something that works for both you and your employer. It’s much more beneficial for an employer to have happy, motivated employees than it is to rigidly stick to a job description without taking into account the human doing the role. And businesses are becoming more open to this way of thinking.

“Whilst taking a sledgehammer to your role and changing it completely might not go down so well, highlighting areas of opportunity to your boss and explaining why and how they could work for you and the company can help you to take back control of your career. Becoming known as the go-to for the area you thrive in will not only make you happier in your role, but also makes you a valued member of the team and increases your potential in the company.”

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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