Thanksgiving: A Time for Gratitude

by Amy Steinberg Published Nov 20, 2018 Last updated Nov 20, 2018

When projects pile up and complex needs arise, it can be easy to lose sight of gratitude in one’s work. Thanksgiving is a particularly valuable time to re-evaluate one’s attitude when it comes to particular areas of work. There are a few reasons why gratitude can be an effective way to be happier and healthier at work. Use this November to put yourself in a mindset of gratitude.

How Gratitude Affects Happiness

1. Gratitude has been studied as a predictor of hope and happiness

Studies have shown that people who are expressing gratitude correlate with higher levels of hope and happiness. These two feelings go hand-in-hand at work; after all, feeling like things will improve or continue to be good in the future contributes in huge part to one’s satisfaction. If you find ways to consciously express and experience gratitude, you may start to notice your own outlook becoming more positive.

2. Shifting focus to gratitude can create a solution-oriented attitude

It’s fairly simple to focus on what is wrong or negative in a situation; evolutionarily, it makes sense that our brains notice and focus on the negative. However, when you train your brain toward thinking about the things that are going well, and toward feeling grateful for those things, you will find that your brain aims toward solutions more often, rather than toward problems.

3. Noticing the best qualities in one’s life can help moderate your moods

Many people experience wide shifts in mood at work, from frustration to satisfaction to envy to thrills of joy. By keeping your focus on what you have to be grateful for, you get the chance to smooth out some of the moods that can be inherent in work life. Being grateful for your routine, your manager, your clients, or your schedule can all help to offset the elements that are more frustrating than positive. Initial research confirms: people who think about what they have to be grateful for are generally happier.

4. Consciously noting the things you are thankful for helps you live in the moment

When you allow future worries and frustrations to rob you of joy in the present, you are less likely to experience happiness. However, focusing on what you have right this minute, especially the positive things, can be an extremely mindful way of living. By focusing on what you are grateful to have right now, you draw your mind out of the grudges of the past or the fears of the future.

5. Positive attitudes are associated with gratitude

It can be difficult to simply make oneself “think positively” on purpose; after all, you may be naturally predisposed to a slightly less rosy outlook. However, gratitude is something we’ve almost all been taught to express, so by finding ways to be more grateful, you naturally move your mind toward focusing on the positive. The two emerge together.

Strategies for Promoting Gratitude at Work

1. Begin a practice of gratitude writing

Many professionals take a moment to free-write about their experiences during their workday to help them generate ideas or synthesize information. Why not take a moment to write 3 things that you are grateful for? This writing provides two positive boosts: one is in the moment, when coming up with the thankful thoughts, and the second is when reviewing your writing in the future.

2. Add gratitude markers to your emails

A good way to boost goodwill is to take a moment in a necessary email to mention a great thing that someone else did for you. This might be emailing a coworker about how helpful their contributions have been, but it also might be a bit of a brag about an exceptional contractor or team member to someone who will be glad to hear how well they are doing. Don’t overuse this strategy, since it should always be sincere, but adding these markers make you a more positive person and increase morale throughout the office.

3. Institute “positive gossip” and other forms of anonymized gratitude

Some offices give the option of leaving an anonymous thank-you note in a box and reading all the “positive gossip” at a staff meeting. Obviously, every work culture is different, but it can be amazing how much someone’s outlook changes when they know they are appreciated. Making such things anonymous can help the underappreciated members of your team start to feel surrounded by people who notice them and care about their hard work.

4. Take time at lunch or on breaks to recognize the efforts of others

If you would otherwise be on your phone or talking about outside-of-work activities, consider adding at least one or two verbal thank-yous to your lunch or break chat. This can be especially great when talking with those who you haven’t connected with previously; gratitude shows you are paying attention and interested in fostering a positive relationship built on trust. Verbal affirmations of thankfulness are just as valuable to your coworkers as they are to your own happiness. All the time you spend thinking about the positive work of your teammates is time you don’t spend dwelling on troubles and things you cannot control.

5. Be part of a shift to constructive solutions rather than complaints

As mentioned above, gratitude tends to be the enemy of a complaining culture. If you know that people prefer to gripe in your office rather than offering to be a part of a needed change, see if you can use your own effective gratitude strategies to shift the “Complain Train” back on track. Your coworkers may not notice at first, but if you are relentless in your positive solution building rather than being part of their frustrations, many of their complaints may go away.

With these thoughtful strategies in place, you are positioned to find yourself noticed as one of the most appreciative and positive members of your work team. The benefits of gratitude are worthwhile even if your office doesn’t notice, however; a fulfilling work life where you pay attention and enjoy the best and most valuable parts of your job is its own reward.