Having an “attitude of gratitude” is widely acknowledged to improve your mental health. That includes everything from the way you view yourself and your family to even your productivity in the workplace.
The idea that gratitude can impact your self-perception and your family relationships probably isn’t surprising, and it could be natural to conclude that gratitude could improve work relationships as well. But can it actually improve your productivity at work? Well…yes, for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, we need to recognize that when we are healthy and content, we are going to be more productive in whatever we are doing. We are at our best when we are well-rested, not overly stressed, eating healthy, and exercising properly. Gratitude plays right into that sense of overall well-being for a multitude of reasons. Here are just a few:
- Gratitude feeds contentment. Expressing gratitude creates an actual chemical change in the brain, releasing dopamine and serotonin. Since those are the two neurotransmitters responsible for “good” moods, regularly practicing gratitude actually causes changes the neural structures in our brain, providing a stronger sense of happiness and contentment. 1
- Gratitude reduces stress. It reduces your cortisol levels—that’s the “stress hormone.” 1 While some of us become more productive when we have a lot on our plate, there is a difference between productive stress, which prompts us to focus, and overwhelming stress that causes us to browse social media because we can’t figure out where to begin. Expressing gratitude at these times helps remind us that we’re not alone, affirming our sense of connection and reducing stress.
- Gratitude helps you sleep better. Given what we’ve already listed, this might seem like a given. If you feel more content and less stressed, you’re likely to sleep better. That in turn is going to enable you to focus better and be more productive at work. 2
- Gratitude is contagious. If you express appreciation for the little things at work, your coworkers will certainly notice, and that makes it more likely that they’re going to begin demonstrating gratitude for things as well, which will in turn make you feel more appreciated. And people who feel appreciated are…you guessed it, more productive. Just make sure your appreciation is sincere.
- Gratitude eases the frustration of mistakes. This one takes a bit more practice, because many of us are inclined to wallow in the disappointment of failure. However, we’re all human, so we all make mistakes. Instead of getting frustrated by it, we can focus on being thankful for the lesson we learned, the information it provided, the boss who didn’t get upset, the co-worker who is helping to make it right, the fact that it wasn’t worse, etc. Once we develop the ability to make a mistake, learn from it, and move on quickly, we become more productive.
- Gratitude keeps us from constant comparisons. If we are thankful for what we have, we are less likely to dwell on what someone else has. Maybe someone has a better-sounding title or an office with a window. But maybe you have the more flexible boss, or the extra telework day. Focusing on gratitude keeps you positive and more content.
Take the next four weeks and work on cultivating a sense of gratitude around your life. Remember to thank people for the little things, keep a gratitude journal, or spend time in prayer/meditation where you focus on the things for which you are thankful. Leave a post-it note of thanks on your coworker’s desk or hand-write a thank-you note to someone for a random reason. See for yourself how it impacts your life, from your self-perception, to your relationships, to your productivity at work.
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