The Thanksgiving holiday season is generally a time of reflection and thankfulness. It’s a time to take inventory of our lives and count our blessings, from friends and family, to material possessions, to having a roof over our heads–particularly here in California, where so many have lost so much this fall. However, gratitude is often overlooked in the workplace, where tensions can run high and stress levels are elevated. Numerous recent mental health studies have posited that taking the time to consciously express thanks, both at home and in the workplace, can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on one’s psyche, physical well-being, and the surrounding environment.
Consider this excerpt from a WebMD article that highlighted the findings of Professor Robert Emmons (University of California): “Grateful people — those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind — have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health, according to Emmons’ research on gratitude. ‘Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations.’” This translates directly to reduced stress levels, fewer sick days, and a more positively-charged physical space. Optimism has a tremendous impact on both physical and psychological well-being, and gratitude is a quality often found in these exemplary positive thinkers.
In the workplace, an action as simple as sending a thank-you email to a colleague who helped out with a project can help to foster a collaborative work environment–one in which employees actively seek out ways to assist one another, acknowledge and appreciate the aid they receive, and congratulate each other on a job well done. If a coworker goes out of his or her way to explain a difficult concept, or demonstrate how to use a new software, we are more likely to happily return the favor when that colleague is in need of assistance. Those in a supervisory or managerial role can help inspire their employees and increase efficiency by recognizing the individual achievements of their subordinates. Positive reinforcement serves to create a workplace where employees are fully engaged and excited to come to work.
The winter holiday season is prime time for stress-related incidents at work across many industries, as budgets are stretched thin, coworkers scramble to use up their remaining vacation days, and end-of-the-year deadlines approach. This year, let’s strive to keep those endorphins flowing by going out of our way to appreciate the little things that our colleagues do to make our lives easier. Many of us owe more to our jobs than just a paycheck–work is also about creating and maintaining interpersonal relationships. By consciously making the effort to be patient, optimistic, and grateful towards our coworkers, we can transform our surroundings into a more gracious, understanding, and overall positive environment.
Our founder, Kate Pletcher, writes thank-you notes and emails each and every day–additionally, she writes down 1-2 things she’s grateful for each night before she goes to bed. Making gratitude part of a daily routine–not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year–is an integral step along the path of positive thinking and kindness to others. What techniques do you use to recognize the things you’re grateful for?