By Angela Walker Franklin | President, Des Moines University
 
To say we are living in emotionally charged times is an understatement. From the usual day-to-day, work-related stressors, to family issues, to the latest social media post gone viral, to the confused media frenzy ... we are living in challenging times. There has been such strife, disagreement and negative energy around the politics of the day that many of us are weary, tired and ready for a little levity.

What about you? Need a break?

I wish I could tell a few jokes or come up with something clever to make it all better, but unfortunately, it will take so much more than a few laughs to get us out from under this. But, I try to always focus on the positive and look for the silver lining.

So here is my attempt to offer a few things that we all can do to uplift the spirits in our environments and focus on things that matter to us.
 
First, stay positive.

Whether in the work environment or at home, we can choose to be positive, upbeat and supportive of each other. The relationships we have and the manner in which we treat each other make all the difference. It may seem simple, but it is easy to forget about the value of following the Golden Rule. Remember to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Treating people with kindness is not old-fashioned but necessary. If only we can get everyone to lead with kindness!

Maybe sure your work environment is already there. If not, you can be the change that is needed. Simply changing the dialogue from negative/red-light thinking to positive/supportive thinking can make a difference. My favorite analogy is looking to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty. Re-framing the conversation is where this should start.

Second, find ways to show appreciation for others

Another simple way to be the change that is needed is to look for opportunities to give the "warm fuzzy." For me, the "warm fuzzy" refers to the feeling of giving someone a big hug because you are genuinely appreciative of something they have done.

If you were to search for a definition of the phrase, the warm fuzzy, you would find several online references that speak to this casual way of describing doing something that "makes one feel good" or "gives others comfort." Actually, the online Urban Dictionary defines it as the "warm, pleasant sensations one feels in the stomach and heart area when emotionally moved by an act of goodwill or love." Who knew?

I often use this phrase, and frankly never knew there were so many references to it online, including images of small, fluffy creatures depicting this idea of warmth and fuzziness. I use it when I describe a genuine act of kindness, something that we can use more of today.

I am proud to work in an environment where the "warm fuzzy" actually gets more formal acknowledgement. At Des Moines University, we have a Spotlight program that makes it easy to show appreciation to fellow staff members simply by sending an acknowledgement electronically (either directly or anonymously) to say "thank you," "I appreciate what you do," or "you are a valued member of the team."

There are many possibilities for shining a spotlight to include someone exceeding job expectations, showing considerable teamwork, having a contagiously positive attitude, or exhibiting a strong work ethic and/or professionalism.

We encourage people to recognize their fellow employees and shine the spotlight ... with winners being selected and celebrated with an entourage of clappers showing up at their offices to celebrate. And, of course, we select a winner for each quarter who then receives a lovely certificate, a pen and a free lunch with the president. Wow! Some of the simplest things carry such value.

So I encourage you to think of the warm fuzzies in your world and acknowledge those who are making a positive impact and shine a spotlight on them.

And, third, offer a smile as your greeting.

A smile! Plain and simple. I am amazed at how many people are oblivious of their surroundings and fail to acknowledge others, make eye contact or smile at people as they go about their day to day activities. Many people walk with their heads down (perhaps checking emails) or appear to be in their own private world as they walk among us. A smile can be uplifting and may even get you one back in return.

Simple, yet, impactful!

I hope this message reminds you of how important we are to each other. The quality of our engagements and the relationships we form can help foster goodwill, camaraderie and a real sense of community. Being positive, showing appreciation and being pleasant in our encounters can make a big difference if we all just give it a try!
 
Angela Franklin, Ph.D, is the 15th president of Des Moines University, a 118-year-old health sciences university. She is a native of McCormick, S.C., a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a 1981 magna cum laude graduate of Furman University, a small liberal arts college in Greenville, S.C. A licensed clinical psychologist, she completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Emory University, followed by a yearlong clinical internship at Grady Memorial Hospital.