Showing gratitude at work

When was the last time you felt a true sense of gratitude? Maybe your friend did a selfless favour for you when you needed it most, or maybe a grand act of kindness from a stranger brightened your entire day. While these gestures may seem modest, the results are anything but…

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on 15Five

Gratitude can have profound impacts on our physical and emotional well-being, and can boost levels of happiness and positivity in spectacular ways. In fact, when the University of California Berkeley explored the feeling of gratitude, they referred to it as ‘social glue’ which fortifies relationships—between friends, family, and romantic partners—and serves as the ‘backbone of human society’.

The key to cultivating gratitude in your workplace is making it a consistent practice. Here is a deeper look at gratitude at work, and tips for developing a practice you can use throughout the year. 

The different kinds of gratitude

Before you can effectively put the power of gratitude to work for your company, you need to understand the way psychologists analyse this emotion. For several decades now, researchers have differentiated between ‘state gratitude’ and ‘trait gratitude’. 

‘State gratitude’ is the temporary emotion you feel after someone does you a favour or gives you a gift. ‘Trait gratitude’, by contrast, is an ongoing way of viewing the world; it is defined as ‘an orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in life’. It’s trait gratitude that yields long-lasting benefits but, the good news is, all of our grateful reactions are linked. 

You can increase someone’s long-term positivity by giving them repeated experiences of being appreciated. The best approach to building a strong company culture is to give plenty of individual recognition, while also encouraging your people to view life through a grateful lens. 

Fostering gratitude at work

As a leader, you have considerable power to awaken and nurture all aspects of gratitude – the immediate, temporary kind as well as the long-term, world view, kind – among your staff. Here are a few proven interventions that you can introduce in your organisation.

Pay attention

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence states, ‘There is always something to be grateful for. Even bad experiences can teach us valuable lessons. And gratitude is not just a feeling outside your control that arrives willy-nilly; it’s more like a radio channel – you can choose at any time to tune-in.’ As you internalise the trait of gratitude, you’ll naturally be on the lookout for those things in life which can be viewed as gifts.

Keep gratitude journals

This practice turns out to be essential, according to psychologists. It’s not enough to just feel grateful; writing it down creates a framework and context for viewing your experiences in a positive light and builds that health-giving habit of approaching life gratefully. Expert advice from Positive Psychology suggests that journaling once or twice a week is more effective than doing it daily. This makes sense since the action could become stale and routine if it were a mandatory part of every day.

Share gratitude with others

Gratitude is a social emotion as well as an introspective one; many of its benefits aren’t unlocked until one person expresses gratefulness to another. One reason for this is that our brains release dopamine every time we express or receive gratitude, so each individual experience of receiving thanks or appreciation is a brief moment of emotion that will contribute to a sustained sense of positivity. 

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