The Gift of Gratitude (P2)
In part 1 of this blog series, I explored the different perspectives on Gratitude and some of the fundamental reasons why Gratitude is essential in a social context. In this blog, I will be focusing on the benefits of Gratitude in the workplace. I will also share some of how we can cultivate an attitude of Gratitude in our lives.
When thinking about Gratitude, it is essential to understand that the emotional return on investment speaks volumes. When you show or express Gratitude towards others, it paves the way for them to do good for you the next time because you value them. One way of viewing Gratitude (and its sibling appreciation) is they are the tools we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff.
The benefit of Gratitude in the workplace
Culturing a culture of Gratitude is thought to be one of the best ways to help a workplace prepare for the stresses that come with change, conflict and failure. We want to avoid stress as much as possible because it can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the ageing process. By adopting an attitude of Gratitude, you can reduce the levels of stress you experience when dealing with change, conflict and failure. Take a moment to reflect on how your team manages these three areas? Is there a need for more of a culture of Gratitude?
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”
– Amy Collette
There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether in minor everyday situations or major personal upheavals. This is paramount in the ever-changing climate and high levels of uncertainty that we are all experiencing in this era. Gratitude is not something optimistic people do; it is a discipline that people choose to operate in because it is a proven remedy for stress! Imagine that you can become more resilient by practising some simple exercises that take up little time. If you are not practising Gratitude regularly, you are missing out on an essential gift to maintain your overall wellbeing.
“Gratitude turns what you have into enough” – Anonymous
There are strong links to how Gratitude can support us. McCraty and colleagues (cited in McCraty & Childre, 2004), in one of their studies on Gratitude and appreciation, found that participants who felt grateful showed a marked reduction in the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that your adrenal glands (the endocrine glands on top of your kidney) produce and release.
When cortisol is released too much, some common side effects include weight gain (mainly around the midsection, face and upper back, acne, thinning of the skin, slowed healing and muscle weakness. McCraty also stated that those who were grateful had better cardiac functioning and were more resilient to emotional setbacks and negative experiences. One of the reasons for this is that Gratitude helps activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which enables you to become calmer and slows down your breathing.
“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” – Lionel Hampton
There needs to be an organisation's culture around Gratitude. Acknowledging the thoughts and efforts of people with Gratitude shows that people matter. It should become entwined into practice so its benefits can flow throughout the different departments and teams. This can have collateral benefits on employees' motivation levels and the wellbeing levels of those exposed to it.
According to a report by the workplace accreditation body Investors in People, more than half of UK workers were either considering moving or actively looking to move to a new employer in 2020.
In summary, the Job Exodus survey 2020 revealed:
- Employees are 10% less happy at work than in 2018 (24% overall).
- 2 in 3 people feel like work stress follows them home.
- 1 in 5 feel that work is negatively impacting health. Cortisol: increases blood pressure, decreases serotonin, suppresses the immune system]
- 2 in 3 employees are looking for a better work-life balance in new roles.
- Flexibility was a priority for 1 in 3 workers.
The research from Gratitude in the workplace concludes that it needs to start at the top with people in power. There needs to be a clear, consistent and authentic display of Gratitude both in public and private settings to establish a company culture. Unfortunately, studies have shown that people with power are less likely to express Gratitude to people with less power. As a result, there is often a lack of Gratitude within organisations because junior staff don't want to seem weak, like they are sucking up to their seniors or being manipulative. If you are a manager or leader, it is your responsibility to set the trend for your line reports to start following. In doing so, you create a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha
How do we grow in Gratitude?
The first thing that we need to be clear about is that Gratitude is not inbuilt; instead, it develops over time. It works just like a muscle. When your work it, it grows. On the flip side, you lose it if you don't use it! Some people have Arnold Schwarzenegger type gratitude muscles that sustain them through thick and thin, and others have new born baby type gratitude muscles. In the latter case, they are impacted by situations that trigger cortisol's continuous release.
Simply put, Gratitude is an other-focused emotion where we focus on what someone else has done for us. Having this mindset is essential because it enables you to put others in the driving seat from time to time metaphorically. There is some excellent pay-off to adopting this approach. Gratitude is learning to take the good things in life as gifts and not your birthright. In other words, you develop the art of recognising and acknowledging the kind gestures/acts and seeing them as gifts bestowed upon you rather than something you deserved as your birthright. This includes your partner, parents, close friends, wellbeing, creativity or experiences you have been blessed to participate in.
Beware of the trap
There is an insidious and dangerous trap that we have probably all fallen victim to at some point in our lives. Some of us more than once! This perilous snare can be summed up in one word – familiarity! I am sure that you have heard the old saying' familiarity Breeds Contempt'. It is very accurate, and if you dare to rewind back the chapter of your life, it wouldn't be hard for you to find where that characteristic stained one of your relationships. Taking things for granted and Gratitude have and always will be arch enemies. In each area of our lives, we have to pick aside and, depending on which side, we will determine our success or failure.
According to psychologist Fred Bryant, savouring positive experiences makes them stickier in your brain and increases their benefits to your psyche. The key, he argues, is expressing gratitude for the experience.
That is one of the ways that appreciation (recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something) and Gratitude go hand in hand.
Feeling Grateful vs Being Grateful
There is a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. Feelings are often subject to events, environments and how we view the world around us. Being thankful is a choice and attitude that we can choose to operate out of despite our circumstances. You must make a clear division between the two; otherwise, you can use the justification of how you feel for the lack of effort you put into being grateful. Some people also mistake thinking that having Gratitude means that you are avoiding the truth or a negative or difficult situation. So, let's clear this up because that just isn't the case. Having Gratitude doesn't make problems and threats disappear. However, it enables us to see the silver lining in a situation and be grateful for someone or something. This can be a helpful mindset when experiencing change, difficulties or loss.
One final point that I would like to bring to your attention is that Gratitude requires specifics. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to Gratitude. Being detailed about the benefits of the person, action, or thing increases your appreciation as it reminds you of how much their help or support benefitted you. It also shows the individual that you notice and values their input and store credit in their emotional bank account. This is how relationships build, grow and blossom!
I hope you found this blog helpful. Leave a comment below and let me know one thing you will take away.
Ezra AKA Voice of Reason