The power of expressing gratitude at work

Gratitude, it’s everywhere lately! At home, at work, at the store, on the media. What’s up? Why is it so important?

Gratitude improves emotional well-being, physical health, and relationships. Don’t believe me? Do a few things to test it for yourself right now, and then we’ll talk about how to do this at work with your colleagues.

To begin, take out a piece of paper and rank your state of emotional well-being (how do you feel right now?) between 1 and 10; then place it aside.

The gratitude letter exercise

Take out a new piece of paper and write a letter of gratitude to someone in your life — they can be alive or deceased; someone from your present or your past; and you can be in relationship and communicating with them, or not. This can be written on a computer or tablet, but it’s best written by hand on paper. In the letter, write what you are grateful for about this person, such as how they have changed your life for the better, and what they taught you, showed you, gave you, helped you with, or directed you toward. Did they care for you, believe in you, teach you, guide you, provide for you, or give you something that changed your life for the better? Tell what you appreciate about him or her, their personal qualities, traits, strengths, or skills. These can be tangible or intangible things. Tell them what you never told them before, or in ways you have never told them before. Write as if this were your only moment to tell them how much they have meant to you, and how much you appreciate them. Fold the letter up and put it in an envelope and write their name on the front of the envelope. You can decide if you want to send it or not, or read it to them or not. Either way, how do you feel right now? Between 1 and 10, has your emotional well-being improved from when you started? Yes? Then, you have experienced what experiments have shown. And, if you do decide to send or read the letter to the individual, their emotional well-being will raise, as well.

The 3 or more grateful things exercise

Another practice that is similar is simply writing down what you are grateful for every day. You write at least three things per day and make it a ritual by choosing a time of day that you do this, like as soon as you sit down to your desk at work, or just before bed every night. It’s best if you can do it every day for 30 days. After 30 days, see how you feel. The research on this has shown that well-being improves, but it’s also true in the moment. Anytime you focus on what you are grateful for, your emotional well-being improves. You cannot be grateful and stressed out at the same time. You also cannot be grateful and anxious or depressed at the same time. Try it. Right now, write down three things that you are grateful for today. This is the first day of your 30-day challenge.

The grateful email or text

One more exercise to test this for yourself — right now, take out your phone and email, message, or text someone who you care about just to say thank you. This can be a thank you for doing something or just being who they are. Make this fun and add an image or smiley face if you want. Press send. How do you feel? Is it better than when you started these three exercises?



The gratitude ripple effect

The practice of gratitude doesn’t just affect you, it also affects everyone around you. The Institute of Heart Math research has shown that our emotional state is felt by others around us, and we affect each other’s mood, attitudes, and feelings. In Howard Martin’s TED Talk, he explains that when the heart beats, the rhythms produced are either incoherent (jagged or irregular) or coherent (regular) based on our emotional state. Negative emotions create an incoherent rhythm and positive emotions create a coherent rhythm. Further, they show that these heart rhythms send signals to the brain, change hormones, and produce an electromagnetic field around the heart, that not only can be felt by the rest of the person’s body, but can also be felt by anyone near them. That sounds profound, but think about it. Have you ever known someone is stressed just by being next to them? Have you ever felt like someone’s negative mood affected you? And vice versa. Have you ever loved the way someone makes you feel? Have you ever felt like when you were with someone positive, you left feeling better?

Gratitude at work

Now, think of this practice at work and its implications. Consider what we can do to shift the emotional well-being of the employees within your company. It all starts with one, and that one could be you!

Tips for gratitude and appreciation

Toward yourself

You know the saying, it all starts with you? Well, it does. Gratitude and appreciation are a mindset. As you practice, you do this both for yourself and for others. So, for yourself:

  1. Morning intention: Start every morning with a thought of gratitude or appreciation.
  2. Three things a day: End each day with writing down three things that you are grateful for.
  3. Gratitude jar: Use a gratitude jar in the house (or on the dinner table) if you live with other people (adults or children), and use it as a conversation starter to share what you each are grateful for.
  4. My positive qualities journal: Keep a journal or document on your computer that you update daily, weekly, or monthly, where you write down what your positive qualities are — your skills, your strengths, your interests, your traits, etc. If negative thoughts arise, challenge the thoughts and change them to positive. A personal development author who has a great way of explaining this and a great exercise you can do is Lisa Nichols. She calls the exercise, “Expose the lies.”
  5. Vision board: Create a vision board for yourself; something that you see every day that has pictures of your positive potential (ideas, achievements, creative endeavors, life experiences, etc.) Maybe this is on paper, on your wall or bulletin board at work, or on your computer as your background.

Toward others

  1. Say thank you: Say thank you to others (verbally or written).
  2. Thank-you cards: Purchase thank-you cards (or have them made) and send handwritten thank you notes.
  3. Great job at your presentation: When someone presents in front of a meeting or group, send him or her a note of appreciation afterward.
  4. Gratitude wall: Create a gratitude or appreciation wall at work, with a pad of paper and pen next to it, where anyone can write new notes and post them.
  5. Meetings: Start meetings with appreciation of what things are going well, move on to what the team needs to work on, and then end with optimism.
  6. Appreciation: Tell people what you appreciate about them. This could be their personality, how they conduct themselves, how they work, or just who they are.
  7. Challenges or campaigns: Participate in group challenges or community campaigns at your work, either with your team or with the whole company. Some ideas:
    1. Random Acts of Kindness Week
    2. Love Week
    3. 21-Day Gratitude Challenge

Try these things out and see how you feel. Even better, see how your co-workers start acting. See if your gratitude is contagious. I have no doubt that it will be!

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