Results of a two-study assessment of traits and states indicate that gratitude predicts both hope and happiness. The three researchers who performed these studies at the aptly-named Hope College in Holland, Michigan, describe in their abstract the definitions of each virtue:
“Gratitude is the appreciation of a gift received; happiness is the enjoyment of a present good; and hope is the desire for a valued future.”
Sounds like a lovely way of living, doesn’t it?
But, unfortunately, some of us feel more like cynical characters in a Dilbert comic than the happy, hopeful employees we’d like to be. Our cubicles are cramped, there are too many tasks on our plates, and (gasp!) our co-workers annoy us. Dwelling on these circumstances hardly leaves room for appreciating, enjoying, and desiring good things.
To bring greater hope and happiness into your workplace, give gratitude a try. Not just gratitude as an abstract idea or thought, but do-able — and simple — gratitude practices.
- Be specific
We all have our pet email sign-offs: “Best,” “Let me know,” “Sincerely,” and even “Thanks in advance.” If you say “thanks,” you can check off the box for your daily gratitude efforts, right?
Not necessarily. Just like a clever one-liner becomes trite over time, the words “thank you,” though important, can communicate surface-level politeness rather than the genuine gratitude you aim to convey.
As you respond to emails, switch things up by adding a brief and specific note of gratitude. If it’s a pitch, thank that person for considering your proposal, giving you feedback (if you’re responding to a rejection), or for their contributions to the industry. If your email is to a co-worker, reference a comment you appreciated during a meeting.
- Take a walk
A simple walk can be just the thing to infuse some happy and hopeful vibes into your day. If you have the flexibility of a lunch break, taking a brisk walk around the block is a fabulous opportunity for a gratitude practice.
Even when not done with intentional gratitude, moving your body does wonders for your mental state. Michael Otto, professor of psychology at Boston University, explains that “within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
As you walk, try listening to an uplifting mindfulness recording like this one from brand coach Alison Faulkner, which combines breathing exercises, affirmations, and music.
- Make a list
No, I’m not referring to the oft-encouraged “gratitude list” where you write down 100 or so things for which you are grateful for (though it’s an amazing practice). At the end of your workday, record a “what I did” list of all the things you accomplished. Feel free to reference your “to do” list, but creating a completely new list will help you focus on what you did rather than what you didn’t do.
Another list that brings gratitude into the picture is to re-read a list of your employee benefits if you have them. If you don’t have employee benefits, make a list of what you like about your job. If you’re drawing a blank on that one, record the specific skills and experiences you are accumulating that will help you in the future.
- Be vocal
As you reap the benefits of practicing gratitude personally at work, you make a positive impact those around you. If you’re a leader in your company, be aware that thanking employees increases productivity, according to a study at the University of Pennsylvania. In this particular study, employees who were thanked by their managers made 50% more fundraising calls than their co-workers who were not thanked.
If you notice an employee who seems in need of the hope and happiness gratitude yields, try expressing thanks and modeling an attitude of gratitude. After all, it has been suggested that both individual gratitude and institutional gratitude predict job satisfaction.
- Give back
Sometimes it takes doing service to realize how many blessings you really can count. Throughout the year and especially during the holiday months, HR departments are busy planning employee events. Why not incorporate a service project? Here are some ideas:
- Assemble care kits for pediatric hospital patients (look into Sending Sunshine)
- Help out at your local soup pantry
- Do a food drive competition between departments
- Pick up trash at a nearby park or “adopt” a stretch of a busy road that needs attention
- Put up an Angel Tree in your lobby (or coordinate a similar gifting opportunity)
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