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Gratitude Can Promote Healthy Workplaces

Jessica Schrader

Psychology Today

November 21, 2022

Gratitude Can Promote Healthy Workplaces

As we head into Thanksgiving week—filled with roasted turkeys, football games, and family gatherings—it’s important to remember the sentiment that goes along with the season: gratitude.

Researchers long ago established that gratitude promotes well-being. While we may feel thankful for something specific, like a gift or a meal, a broader outlook of gratitude—the mindset of noticing and appreciating the positives in your life—is proven to protect people from psychological distress.

A 2010 systematic review found that “an attitude of gratitude” may reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and has been shown to help people adjust to traumatic life events and their aftermaths, while a more recent review found strong evidence that a grateful outlook is tied to emotional and social well-being. Both reviews found that gratitude interventions are effective at boosting your overall health. This means practices like writing down three things for which you are grateful, having a daily ritual of expressing gratitude to others, and even writing thank-you notes can help to improve your well-being, reduce negative emotions, and decrease worrying.

With all of that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise you that a culture of gratitude also promotes a healthy and productive workplace. A study published in the Harvard Business Review takes an in-depth look at how encouraging gratitude in the workplace can improve culture.

Researchers conducted two separate studies with 147 and 204 volunteers from a variety of industries including teachers, fast food workers, IT professionals, housekeepers, and more. In each, they asked participants to keep a journal about their workdays for two weeks. Half of each group wrote about the aspects of work for which they were grateful, and the other half could write about whatever they wanted.

In both studies, employees completed an online survey to determine whether the journaling affected their desire to promote the well-being of others, the closeness of their relationships, their self-control, and whether it improved their perceived support from others. Researchers also asked a co-worker of each participant to complete a survey reporting on the employee’s behavior over the past two weeks.

The research found that gratitude journaling helped employees improve self-control and treat their co-workers with more kindness compared to employees who kept regular journals.

The authors do make the point that it’s not enough just to hand out gratitude journals at the office. Workplace leaders should express gratitude to their employees and create time and space in the workday for encouraging gratitude. This could include thank-you notes, an appreciation bulletin board, and a specific time during meetings for designated kudos.

The take-home message: Gratitude is good for your health and well-being, and also fosters healthy, productive workplaces. So, cultivate some gratitude at home during the Thanksgiving holiday, and then bring that grateful attitude back to the workplace with you.

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