Hopefully this week you have found a few things for which you can be grateful. It's a challenging time for many and you've been impacted in one way or another. Our normal mode - whatever that is for you - is likely off-kilter, and will be off-kilter for a while. One way that we can help our brain, emotions, health, psyche - our overall wellbeing - deal with today's circumstances is to express gratitude.
Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as "the state of being grateful." And grateful is "appreciative of benefits received." Let's dive in a bit further with research by Robert Emmons, a psychologist, professor at UC Davis and author of several books on gratitude. He breaks gratitude down into two parts per this article on Gratefulness.org:
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” In the second part, he continues, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives."
I love that gratitude is about acknowledging several things: 1) there's goodness in our lives and 2) others play a role in bringing that goodness to our lives. It's hard to be negative when we switch our focus from ourselves to others. Acknowledging even the small things in life for which we are grateful helps us to focus on the good and shift our attitude.
Benefits of Gratitude
There is a lot of great information available on the importance and value of gratitude. Experts share that it benefits so many aspects of our life - our brain, emotions, health, psyche, and yes, our overall wellbeing. In this article, Robert Emmons shares that gratitude “can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.” Indeed. Further, the article shares, "Practicing gratitude also affects behavior. Studies have shown that grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence – factors that translate into a healthier and happier life."
But why? Why is gratitude such a powerful tool in our endless quest for wellbeing? In the same article, Emmons shares that he believes
gratitude works because it allows individuals to celebrate the present and be an active participant in their own lives. By valuing and appreciating friends, oneself, situations and circumstances, it focuses the mind on what an individual already has rather than something that’s absent and is needed.
I love that. Appreciate what we have, participate well in our own lives and be here in the present. That sounds like an astounding idea, especially during the holiday season where we will be challenged with a multitude of varying emotions and situations.
Gratitude in the Workplace
If the power of gratitude is so fabulous, why don't we do more to bring it into the workplace? Really, since the act of practicing gratitude provides such strong personal benefits, let's be selfish and practice it at work. I can't think of a better place to share gratitude - the place where we spend the majority of our days. Let's bring in the goodness of gratitude and plop it right down in the middle of our desk… even if the workplace isn't our favorite place. I am going to argue that the benefits of practicing gratitude at work outweigh not doing it. Here are a few non-scientific ideas:
It builds relationships with colleagues. Try expressing gratitude to a co-worker, and see if that doesn't result in him or her being willing to help out the next time you need a hand.
Being appreciated feels good. I don't have a science fact to back this one up, but pretty sure it's true speaking from personal experience. Let's pass on good mojo to each other via a little appreciation.
Company culture is the accumulation of what each of us bring to the workplace. You don't need a company program or manager approval to share gratitude.
C'mon, let's give it a go. Here are a few ideas to get started. Pick one or two and give them on a try during your next work day:
Say "thank you" a lot…and mean it
Greet your co-workers in the morning
Get someone a cup of coffee or tea
Write a handwritten note of thanks and drop it off at a colleague's desk or put it in the mail
Start the practice of showing appreciation for each other at team meetings, such as writing a quick thank you note to the person seated on your left
Share weekly gratitude with your social media tribe on #ThankfulThursday
Send an email to a coworker's boss to give him or her props on their work on a specific project
Send props along via your company's recognition platform
Bring in donuts or pastries for the team
Post customer commendations in a public space or share about them in a newsletter or team meeting
I bet you have ideas, too. I'd love to hear them. Please share in a comment below. Gratitude can also be a group project!
I'm Grateful for You
Before we wrap this week, I'd like to share my gratitude for you. Thank you for reading the article and being eager to hear a new perspective. Thank you for the support you provide on social media and LinkedIn as I build the value of this site and share insight with you. Thank you for working hard for your organization, caring about employees and representing talent development well. Thank you for being a force for good out there in the marketplace. Keep on keepin' on. I appreciate you.