New Research Shows Gratitude Toward Coworkers Reduces Job Stress
Bryan Robinson, Ph.D
November 7, 2022
As the “holidaze” season approaches, work and life get busier, and many of us get overwhelmed with stressful demands. How many of us unwittingly put some of the stress on ourselves by griping and complaining about the minor inconveniences when our lives are already rich and full?
After a project wraps, for example, do you move on to the next item on your agenda without taking time to savor the successful completion of the one you left behind? Do you complain because you didn’t score the best office with a view, overlooking the fact that you have the means to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with loved ones and awesome friends? Do you bemoan what’s on your to-do list instead of savor how much you’ve accomplished?
The month of November is the time to appreciate how far you’ve come in your career, not how far you still have to go—how much you have, not how much you want. When you look at the total trajectory of where you were, where you are now and how far you want to go, you see the full spectrum, not just a piece of it. And you notice how much you’re grateful for and how much better you feel inside.
Time Out For Your Horn Of Plenty
Whatever you focus your mind on expands. When you focus on lack, you operate from a position of loss and discontent and experience more lack. You focus on what’s missing from your life—that manager position, fat paycheck or top salesperson—and fool yourself into thinking more of something or someone will fill the void. But it doesn’t. The best way to reach contentment is to want and feel grateful for what you already have. When you focus on abundance, you have more of it. Taking time to underscore your completions and successes creates a deeper sense of fulfillment and builds team spirit at work, according to science.
Research shows that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25%. A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, for example, found that teammates who thanked their coworkers before performing a high-stress task had less job stress— indicated by a better cardiovascular response—compared to teams who did not express gratitude. The enhanced cardiovascular response led to less stress, greater concentration, more confidence and peak performance. Plus, the grateful teams had greater team bonding.
In addition to science, ancient traditions have found that expressing gratitude for all we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have fends off many stressful moments. His Holiness the Dalai Lama says there are two ways to reach contentment. One is to acquire everything you want and desire: an expensive house, sporty car, fashionable wardrobe, gourmet foods, perfect mate, exotic trips a perfectly toned body. The list is endless. The problem with this approach is that this type of wanting is a bottomless pit and never leads to contentment. Sooner or later there will be something you want but can’t have, no matter how many hours you put in or how hard you work. The second and more reliable approach to contentment is to want and feel grateful for what you already possess. When you have a strong sense of contentment, it doesn’t matter whether you obtain the object of your desire or not. You are content either way.
Adapting An Attitude Of Gratitude
Thanksgiving is the time to take a break from work, the ballgames, parades and the turkey and stuffing to contemplate all that you’re thankful for. Most of us already have all the abundance to be happy. As your feet touch the floor each morning of Thanksgiving week, you can be mindful of everything and everyone you encounter that you appreciate. This is especially important for those of us who overly focus on what we haven’t achieved instead of what we’ve already accomplished, no matter how big or small.
When you take a breath and step back, your heartfelt thankfulness for your blessings slows you down and fills you up. This is a time to count your blessings—all the things you might have overlooked, forgotten or taken for granted—instead of complaining about what you still need. Expressing gratitude helps you see the flip side of the narrow scope that your mind builds without your knowledge. Dr. Christopher Taylor, founder of Taylor Counseling Group in Dallas-FortWorth, offered three simple ways to practice gratitude:
Place a pad of paper and pen by your bed every night. When you wake up, write down three things you’re thankful for before beginning your day.
Tell yourself three things you are grateful that you did at the end of each day.
Express thanks to three people in your life daily for who they are, what they are like and what you are thankful for in your relationship.
As you apply these exercises to your job, notice you’re more aware of how full your work and personal lives already are. Seize those blessings, hold them close to your heart and don’t let pettiness and the small stuff distract you from the bigger, more important aspects of your life. This month of November consider diminishing your wants by wanting what you have instead of having what you want, and abundance and fulfillment are yours.