You might be wondering, “Why, should I express gratitude in the workplace?” It could be difficult, especially if you do not feel appreciated by your manager, coworkers, or company as a whole. However, there are four significant benefits of expressing gratitude both in and out of the workplace.
Benefit #1: Gratitude improves your well-being and resilience.
Researchers reviewed 139 studies on gratitude and well-being. The research reviewed indicates expressing gratitude improves both physical and psychological health. Researchers describe gratitude as a part of a wider life orientation toward noticing and appreciating the positive in the world, and this orientation is different from optimism, hope, and trust. These same researchers define well-being through psychopathology, general emotional functioning, existential functioning, and humanistic conceptions.
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality revealed those who express gratitude are more resilient. Increased resilience helps individuals better manage stress and experience fewer negative or toxic emotions.
According to a study published in the Clinical Psychology Review, high levels of gratitude and thankfulness were inversely correlated to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, drug abuse or dependence, and bulimia nervosa. Thus, as gratitude and thankfulness increase, the risk of the psychopathological conditions described above decrease.
High emotional functioning is comprised of three things: high levels of positive emotions, low levels of negative emotions, and high satisfaction with life. Gratitude appears related to mood and life satisfaction; as gratitude expression increases, so does mood and life satisfaction.
Existential Functioning and Humanistic Conceptions
Expression of gratitude may increase an individual’s feelings of personal freedom and free will, and is related to the pursuit of meaning and purpose (existentialism). Expressing gratitude may increase our feelings of personal freedom, free will, meaning, and purpose, which may then increase our resilience to psychopathologies (such as depression) later in life. Expressing gratitude may also increase authentic living (behaving in a way consistent with one’s own personal beliefs and values) and decrease self-alienation (lacking a sense of identity or not knowing oneself). These are considered humanistic conceptions.
Benefit #2: Gratitude improves your health.
Research revealed gratitude leads to decreasing levels of stress over time. Stress is considered a major contributor to almost all physical health complaints. If stress can be decreased through the expression of gratitude, physical health may improve as well.
Gratitude may also improve your health by improving your sleep. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep deficiency can raise your risk for chronic health problems and affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Researchers describe how gratitude was related to total sleep quality, sleep duration (both too little and too much), sleep latency (abnormally long time taken to fall asleep), sleep quality, and daytime dysfunction (due to insufficient sleep). In each case, gratitude was related to sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Negative thoughts prior to sleep are related to impaired sleep. On the other hand, positive pre-sleep thoughts are related to improved sleep quality and quantity. People expressing gratitude experienced less sleep harming negative thoughts, and more sleep promoting positive cognitions, resulting in better overall sleep.
3. Gratitude improves your relationships with others.
Results of several scientific studies describe how gratitude appears related to a range of social outcomes and positive relationships. Researchers reviewed many studies and found gratitude is related to: perceived quality of relationships, willingness to forgive, and low narcissism. Expression of gratitude promotes relationship formation, and strengthens established relationships through connection and satisfaction. Gratitude may also promote helping behavior and conflict resolution. According to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Kentucky, individuals who show gratitude experience less aggression, a decreased desire to seek revenge, and an increase in sensitivity and empathy toward other people. This may help promote psychological safety
Benefit # 4: Gratitude has a ripple effect.
Researchers from Princeton University showed how cooperative and altruistic behavior can spread from one person to another. Expressing gratitude may inspire other people to do the same. If you find yourself in a workplace lacking gratitude, consciously expressing gratitude may result in increased gratitude by your team members, and possibly even your organization as a whole.
Connecting the dots.
Although you may feel like you have little to be grateful for, especially in the workplace, consciously working to express gratitude will have long-term positive effects on your health, well-being, and relationships. While consciously and intentionally expressing gratitude might change your outlook for the better, it will likely overflow to those around you as well.
How can you begin practicing gratitude?
- Make yourself a promise. According to Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert in gratitude, research shows making a promise or vow to perform a behavior increases the likelihood the action will be performed. Write your own gratitude vow and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
- Say “thank you” more often. Be specific, tailor your thank-you, and be consistent. Read more here.
- Keep a gratitude list or journal. Taking the time to write down what you are grateful for can help reinforce positive thoughts. This may counter the brain’s natural tendency to focus on what goes wrong. In the journal article Bad is Stronger than Good, researchers describe why the brain tends to focus more on the negative than the positive.
- Remember the challenging times. According to Emmons, it is helpful to remember the hard times you once experienced so you may be grateful in your current state. Remembering the difficult times compared to where you are presently helps create a contrast. “This contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.”
Interested in learning more? Check out my article 3 Ways Gratitude Promotes a Culture of Engagement in the Workplace. I describe the ways gratitude may promote a culture of engagement in the workplace and I give three tips on how to show genuine gratitude in the workplace.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your personal expression of gratitude, or the expression of gratitude in your workplace, please review my services here and contact me here.
This was originally posted on LinkedIn on October 19th, 2017. See the full post here.