Many workplaces have changed drastically over the past year due to the pandemic, and those changes often have become added sources of anxiety or stress. Mental wellness experts say there could be a simple antidote: gratitude.
Whether it’s praising a job well done, rewarding extra effort, or simply encouraging employees to take stock of the good things in life, gratitude can have benefits for the body and mind, according to Karie Batzler, director of behavioral health at Capital BlueCross.
“Simple expressions of gratitude are beneficial to both the person showing gratitude and those receiving it,” Batzler said. “Feeling gratitude, and expressing it, can enrich professional relationships and promote happiness at work.
“Best of all, there’s a ripple effect,” she added. “When you express gratitude, it becomes more likely that your coworkers will feel inspired to do the same. This also provides the opportunity for leaders to role model the regular practice of gratitude to their employees.”
A growing body of research shows gratitude has benefits to both physical and mental health. Researchers at the University of California San Diego found grateful people have healthier hearts. Other studies suggest cultivating gratitude boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and helps you get more sleep.
A 2017 study cited “the power of gratitude” as a means of improving self-motivation and improving emotion regulation. Aside from promoting a more positive mindset, the study also found expressions of gratitude can reduce stress levels and heart rates.
“Gratitude is an important component of mental healthiness throughout life, and it contributes to mental well-being,” the study noted.
So how can you foster more gratitude in the workplace? Here are a few effective methods:
- Compliment quality work – An acknowledgement of good work, even on a routine task, can be a simple yet effective way to acknowledge a coworker’s effort and make the person feel valued.
- Encourage employee volunteering – Helping those in need builds a sense of gratitude. Studies have shown that volunteering promotes longevity, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and depression, and reduces stress.
- Start meetings on a positive note – Kicking off a meeting or conversation by sharing something for which you are grateful can help you and your colleagues focus on the positive.
- Offer tools to build gratitude – Offer employees a gratitude journal (jotting down things you are grateful for reinforces positive thoughts) or even a meditation program that can help them focus on the positive.
While fostering gratitude has undeniable benefits, Batzler said it’s also important to have patience with ourselves while learning this new skill set amid the challenges we’ve all faced in recent months.
“Like most healthy habits, cultivating the practice of gratitude requires time, patience, and practice,” she said. “But it’s an effort that pays off by making a qualitative difference.”