An attitude of gratitude can change our work and life
"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." -- William Arthur Ward
The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It is a positive emotional state in which one recognizes and appreciates what one has received in life. It is a turning of our mind to focus on what is good, not necessarily perfect, but good. Research shows that taking time to experience gratitude can make us happier, more successful and even healthier.
Gratitude sounds a lot like appreciation, so you may ask what is the difference? Appreciation is the act of acknowledging the goodness in life but gratitude goes one step further. It recognizes how the positive things in our life are due to outside forces; a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves, which produces vulnerability.
In a Google search for "employee appreciation," 12.7 million hits come up as compared to a mere 9,450 results for "employee gratitude." I suggest we go one step further than appreciation and practice employee gratitude regularly for employees, employers, and colleagues. Once we infuse gratitude into our work days, studies show we will be more positive, we will be more successful with a greater sense we can achieve our goals, our stress will be lower and a we will have a higher satisfaction with our jobs and co-workers.
Just like everything in life, the more we practice, the better we get. Consider gratitude as something to learn. The more we practice finding things to be grateful for, the more we will search and find. There are several steps that can be implemented to help us incorporate this practice into our daily life so it becomes habit. Keep in mind that according to a study in the European Journal of Psychology, a habit takes on average 66 days to become automatic. It is likely a positive effect will be seen much quicker than that.
There are several ways to start making gratitude a part of a year-round habit.
1. Start a gratitude journal. The practice of a gratitude journal on a regular basis can help us become accustomed to noticing the little things as well as the big. Every morning or night, write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for, including different aspects of life and work, i.e. family, colleagues, health, etc. Avoid repetition by noticing even the little things such as the speed of your elevator to your office, your warm cozy slippers, remembering to bring your umbrella on a rainy day, etc. Be specific and add detail, like the soft sweet smell of lilacs on the walk to my office.
2. Thank at least one person every day, erbally, by text, by mail, email, with a gift, a hug, etc. Include employees, bosses, clients, door people, the clerk at your local pharmacy, family, friends, etc.
3. Find gratitude in failures and challenges. By flipping these into a source of potential growth, we pave the way for long-term happiness. In addition, it will help us appreciate where we are now.
4. Practice mindfulness, and Take a few minutes throughout the day to think of a few things you are grateful for in the present. You can write these down in your journal later or think of others. Just thinking of these thoughts train your brain.
5. Stop comparing yourself, your life and your job to others. Negativity is very draining. Focusing on what you already have instead of what you lack, trains your mind to look for the positive.
6. Notice the beauty in nature.
7. Smile more often.
8. Help others. Share knowledge with a colleague in need, start a CSR project at work, organize a blood drive or even just bring coffee for your team are just a few of the many ways to help others.
9. Don't worry if you have a bad day or forget. If you find you start falling into a place of negativity. Quickly recognize it and then make a conscious effort to shift back to gratitude.
In addition to the steps above, the three steps below from Leading with Gratitude by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick, will help us to become more grateful leaders and can be implemented by employer or employee.
1. Walk in their shoes: This can help make your gratitude authentic.
2. Look for small wins: express gratitude for incremental progress not just the end result.
3. Tailor to the individual: Everyone is different and are more motivated by different approaches so show praise and thankfulness for specific reasons personalized to each individual.
You will soon find that by treating your co-workers, both employees and employers, with gratitude may encourage kind acts that aren't part of their job description, like welcoming new employees and helping each other more.
By conscientiously practicing gratitude, we can train our brain for happiness and success in work and daily life. What are you waiting for?
For suggestions on how to bring/create a gratitude program at your workplace please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Donna Mitsos, CIS, IP, is director of sales at Innovation Meetings and Teatro ZinZanni & Spiegeltent ZaZou