While it may be cliché to write a blog post about gratitude the week of Thanksgiving, it’s also a good reminder as we move into the holiday season. For many, November and December bring additional stress, frustration, and hardship. The last two years have been difficult. It’s human to dwell on our struggles. In fact, we remember bad memories and in more detail than we do good memories. And yet, we all have a powerful tool that can ease those memories and boost our joy.
Gratitude increases happiness.
Positive psychology defines gratitude as “a positive emotional response that we perceive on giving or receiving a benefit from someone.” When we express gratitude or receive gratitude from someone, we begin to feel more positive. These feelings of positivity begin a chemical chain reaction in our brains. The neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for our mood, increase, helping us to feel happier. Then, when we feel happier, we are more likely to express more gratitude.
Consider this story:
Barry got stuck in traffic one morning, making him late for work. Already upset because a running toilet increased his water bill by over $200 that month, Barry yanked his desk chair out from under his desk and plopped down. He checked his email only to find his boss had rescheduled an afternoon meeting for ten minutes ago. Barry grabbed his folder and ran to down the hall to the conference room. All he could think about was how crappy his day already was, and it was about to get worse.
Barry’s boss gave him the side-eye when he arrived and slid into the only empty chair, keeping his head down to avoid eye contact. This was the second time that week he had been late to a meeting. Toward the end of the meeting, the presenter, one of Barry’s colleagues, said, “We were able to avoid the massive shipping problems because Barry stayed late and reconfigured the whole shipping schedule. A huge thanks goes out to Barry for going above and beyond.” Everyone in the room clapped, and several of Barry’s colleagues, including his boss, gave him a high give and words of praise.
Of course the gratitude they offered Barry did not lower his water bill or excuse his tardiness. But I bet Barry had a much better day.
Gratitude builds trust and commitment.
We work harder, smarter, and better when we feel appreciated. The employee who is thanked for their work is more likely to do more work than the employee who feels unvalued. We cannot always know the stresses our co-workers, bosses, and employees are under; however, we don’t have to know. Showing our gratitude and appreciation has the power to reduce their stress and increase their happiness. Happy workers trust others and are more committed to each other, the company, and their jobs.
So how do we express gratitude? How do we each like receiving gratitude? Easy: ask.
I asked each member of the Group Dynamic team two questions:
- How do you show gratitude to others?
- How do you like to receive gratitude from others?
Here’s what they said.
Alan’s Gratitude Attitude
“I show appreciation at work by thanking people for specific efforts and work to remind people of the solid impact their work has on the business and on the peace of mind good acts provide for others. I think people like to know their work makes a difference for the enterprise, but also for other humans. Solid work on one person’s behalf can really help other people–including me–breathe easier. I also like to show appreciation with little gifts that show connection but aren’t over the top.”
“My love language is words of appreciation, so I’m easy. I love to know that my work and the way I treat people is appreciated and just what they need. I also feel appreciated by acts of service, when people do a little more than their share when they see I’m under stress. That makes me feel awesome.”
Kelly’s Gratitude Attitude
“I show appreciation at work by making myself available to engage with others through collaboration, connection, and providing support. Ensuring that I understand others’ needs and meeting them where they are to show individualized appreciation to others. It’s important for me to be genuine in my communication so my colleagues and clients understand the meaning behind my gratitude.”
“Quality time is my love language, which shapes how I view appreciation. At work, I like to receive opportunities to learn and grow through professional and personal development. I also like being challenged. I need time for connection with co-workers to build trust. Also, I like to understand the importance of my contribution to the organization by having others show specific instances of the impact I’m making. And, of course, a gift of Diet Coke is as good as any ‘thank you.'”
Cindy’s Gratitude Attitude
“I feel like showing appreciation boils down to treating others how you want to be treated. I try to be a good listener, respectful of your time and expertise, say ‘thank you’ and point out when somebody is being rockin’ cool.”
“As for receiving gratitude, the little things are the best and most impactful for me. Like when your boss says, ‘I like the way you handled that,’ or a co-worker says, ‘Nice job’ and tosses you an M&M.”
Rachel’s Gratitude Attitude
“I show appreciation at work by pointing out unique contributions to the team. I offer my time to improve, explain, or create structure/systems to support them and the work they are doing. Connection is also important to me, so initiating connection via phone calls, Zoom meetings, or in-person meetings is crucial for me to build those relationships.”
“Acts of service and quality time are my love languages, so I need to hear hear the value and importance of my work. I especially like to hear my work is valued when I complete an overwhelming or difficult task. Another way to show me appreciation is to give me the opportunity to talk through a project or task I’m particularly passionate about, regardless of whether it makes sense to the other person or not.”
DeAnne’s Gratitude Attitude
“I show appreciation by making sure I’m available if anyone needs anything. I’ll work odd hours to make sure tasks get completed and the needs of clients and co-workers are met. From a young age, I learned saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are magic words, so I use them all the time to show appreciation and respect. I also like giving thoughtful gifts to people. For me, gift-giving should be meaningful, so I put a lot of mental effort in choosing the perfect gift.”
“My love language is words of affirmation, so words of appreciation are necessary for me. Although, because I’m pretty introverted, I like those words to be in private. Public displays of appreciation tend to make me uncomfortable. I also enjoy the occasional thoughtful gift, like a Pepsi, flowers, or a home-baked loaf of sourdough bread.”
What’s your Gratitude Attitude?
Thanks for reading,
DeAnne Negley, T-LMHC, NCC