But why are we speaking of Gratitude when the topic is Happiness?
Because the human being is not hardwired to be happy but to survive upon threats. To pay attention to what is bad, to what doesn't feel good, to what is lacking, to predict unfavorable scenarios so we can plan to protect ourselves.
But humanity has evolved. We are no longer that unsafe species that needs protection from wild animals in the savannah. We reached a place in time where we can control our instincts. We can now stop surviving and start living - if we really want to enjoy life to the fullest.
But if we aren’t programmed for that, how do we do it? Well, the beauty of the mind is that it can trick itself, for better outcomes. And a scientific fact is that: as the mind changes, the brain changes. Research has shown that through the practice of behavioral-cognitive therapies such as gratitude and mindfulness, there’s a bigger activation on the left side of the brain, thickening the areas related to positive emotions and wellbeing. What flows through the mind, it sculps the brain. Existing synapses get stronger, they start building out more receptors, forming new synapses as well.
So how do we do it? We reverse engineer. We focus on what we have and not on what we don’t have. Gratitude is the power of honoring the smallest moments, as once said Brené Brown.
Gratitude turns everything we have into enough. How beautiful and profound is this?
They say that a grateful heart is a magnet for miracles because what we focus on, it grows. It expands. What we put energy into, it flourishes. So, if we practice gratitude for the things we have, we will have more of it.
When we first started working Happiness in companies, we quickly understood that training managers on ‘leading for happiness’ wasn’t going to be enough. Through numerous meetings with HR departments we quickly mapped out one root cause for workplace unhappiness: the employees themselves. People weren’t trained to see the cup half full. They were hardwired to see the cup half empty and to obsess about it. We witnessed HR teams doing everything they could to satisfy employees and they would still complaint about the most absurd things. In a grateful culture, there is a give and take. And employees were being trained to be takers, not givers.
We then understood that to positively impact a work culture, companies needed to get to the root. We started working on the pillars of Positive Psychology in the workplace such as Gratitude, Empathy, Mindfulness, Resilience and more. Employees started to be more consciously aware of their self-responsibility when it comes to internal happiness, how their actions affected everyone around them and their role in a positive work culture.
A grateful workplace is a perfect symbiosis of employees who practice it with themselves and managers who promote recognition and appreciation.
How can we practice Gratitude with ourselves?
- Keeping a gratitude journal. Everyday listing 3 things we were grateful for that day. The goal is to be specific, honoring the smallest moments;
- Writing a gratitude letter. Weekly or monthly, to ourselves or someone we appreciate;
- Keep a gratitude jar. Everyday writing somethng we are blessed for in a piece of paper and fill it in. In the end of the year, when we empty the jar and read them, we will feel the year was of great worth.
How can we practice Gratitude in the workplace?
- Leading by example, thanking people and meaning it;
- Promoting a culture of recognition and appreciation through workplace rituals;
- By starting meetings with gratitude notes;
- Keeping it consistent, doing it daily and authentically;
The benefits of gratitude are immense. Studies have shown that when we practice it, we release dopamine and serotonin, therefore we feel more positive emotions, which will lead into improving mental health. It boosts self esteem because we cherish where we are and what we have. Because we feel proud of what we have achieved, it reduces social comparison and ego is vanished - we are able to pursue more authentic and engaging relationships. It plays an important role in overcoming trauma: we accept what is, the present, the new, and let go of the old. It improves physical health and sleep.
Gratitude in the workplace fosters helping behaviour. A study done by researchers at the University of New South Wales found that saying 'thank you' to a new employee makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relatioship with you and that grateful employees are more prepared for failure. A from Glassdoor states that 4 in 5 (81%) employees report that they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation and recognition for their work, boosting performance and productivity levels.
Grateful employees establish good and engaging social connections, which is a key factor for employee engagement and happiness.
As you can see, gratitude is a magnet for workplace miracles and we should all practice more often!
Founder Happiness Business School