When you’re at work, do you feel disconnected from the qualities that give depth and meaning to the rest of your life? Do you put certain parts of yourself “on hold,” reserving them for other times and places? Maybe it feels like certain qualities or behaviors don’t really fit at work. Like you’re two different people — your personal life self and your professional life self. So the moment you arrive at the office, a shift occurs: You leave certain parts of yourself — perhaps the best parts of yourself — behind.
Gratitude is a great example of this. While many of us are comfortable feeling and showing gratitude in other areas of life — with family and friends, during major milestones and everyday interactions — it may not come naturally at work. But research shows that when we tap into a sense of gratitude at work, we experience tremendous benefits — for our health, our relationships, and our performance.
Even better, it doesn’t take much to shift your mindset to a place where gratitude feels natural, even in the most demanding, hyper-connected work settings.
Welcome to the Thrive Guide to Gratitude
Thrive Global is a behavior change platform focused on lowering stress and increasing well-being and productivity. The company, founded by Arianna Huffington, creates lasting change in people’s lives by giving them sustainable, science-backed solutions to enhance their performance and overall well-being.
This Thrive Guide will show you exactly how to increase your capacity for gratitude at work — and explain why doing so can supercharge your performance.
At first, gratitude might not seem like an emotion that fits naturally or comfortably into your work day. Maybe that’s because you associate gratitude with other parts of your life — or maybe, when you look around, you don’t see a whole lot to be grateful for. That’s where our Thrive Global Microsteps come in. These simple, science-backed changes you can start incorporating into your life today will help you identify moments and opportunities where gratitude can both improve your performance and help put your ups and downs into perspective.
We’ll introduce you to the New Role Models who prove that an attitude of gratitude is essential to success. For example, Tony Robbins told Thrive that each morning he focuses on three things he’s grateful for, because “gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up.” Author Amy Kurtz told Thrive about how she sets the tone for each day with a gratitude practice. And J.P. Morgan managing director Nada Adae told Thrive that gratitude journaling is her secret life hack.
In our Tech to Thrive section, we’ve curated the best technology that can help you be more grateful.
Beyond the benefits to your own performance and well-being, it’s also critical for you to invite and encourage your teams to practice gratitude. Our Managerial Take-aways section offers advice for managers who want to lead by example. As you’ll see, gratitude is contagious — once you begin demonstrating your gratitude, others will feel more valued and follow suit.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have the tools and practical advice you need to live and work with more gratitude, with all the benefits it brings.
The Wisdom and Science Behind Gratitude’s Benefits
Before we dive into the science behind gratitude’s importance, let’s look at how fundamentally gratitude forms a part of human culture, both now and dating back centuries.
Nearly every culture has traditions of giving thanks. American Thanksgiving, India’s Pongal harvest festival, Japan’s Great Thanksgiving festival, Indonesia’s Seren Tahun festival, Belarus’ Yurya celebration, Israel’s Sukkot, Korea’s Chuseok, and Germany’s Erntedankfest are just a few examples. Each has a unique history and rituals, but they’re linked by a collective sense of gratitude.
Across time and across the world, there’s a pretty strong agreement that when we’re thankful for what we have — no matter how much or how little that may be — it’s good for our bodies, minds and souls. Centuries-old wisdom on gratitude still resonates, from Plato (“A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things”) to the German philosopher Meister Eckhart (“If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank You,” that would suffice.”) And in 1977, the United Nations first celebrated World Gratitude Day (September 21), led by meditation guru Sri Chinmoy.
On an individual level, gratitude is one of the most leveling qualities available to us. It extends both inward and outward. When we’re grateful for what we have — not just in material ways but in our relationships,, skills, anything — our relationships with ourselves, with others and with the world come into sharper focus.
In stressful situations, gratitude can be especially powerful. As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, “Grace and gratitude have the same Latin root, gratus. Whenever we find ourselves in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset, we can remember that there is another way and open ourselves to grace. And it often starts with taking a moment to be grateful for this day, for being alive, for anything.”
When we do take that moment to be grateful, science shows, we experience tremendous benefits. In one study published in the Academy of Management Journal, researchers asked participants to take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down a list of three things that went well that day and why they went well. They found that “a brief, end-of-workday positive reflection led to decreased stress and improved health in the evening.” Other studies show a range of physical benefits, including improved sleep quality, and a 2013 study of Swiss adults found that gratitude correlated positively with self-reported physical health. As Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, two of the foremost gratitude researchers, put it: “a life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills.”
Gratitude is also a gateway to emotions and behaviors that not only benefit you, but positively affect those around you. A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that those who demonstrated gratitude were more likely to help others, even when that help came with a cost.
Bolstered by all this new research, gratitude has emerged as a definitive leadership trait — one that can make leaders more effective and inspire their teams to new heights of performance. As Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, wrote in The Harvard Business Review, “When teaching executives and others in positions of power, I focus on three essential practices — empathy, gratitude, and generosity — that have been shown to sustain benevolent leadership, even in the most cutthroat environments.”
When leaders embrace gratitude, employees and the organization as a whole benefit. In a survey published in Harvard Business Review of 195 leaders in 15 countries, Sunnie Giles, a certified executive coach, found that leaders who nurture growth among their employees can help create a culture of gratitude and improved performance.
With all this research showing just how powerful gratitude can be, let’s now look at how you can put it into action.
The Changes You Can Make Right Now
Here are three microsteps you can take to infuse each day (and night) with more gratitude.
1. Start a gratitude list.
Writing down what you’re grateful for at the end of the day will lower your stress levels and give you a greater sense of calm at night.
2. Say “thank you.”
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions, with benefits that extend both inward and outward. And it often starts with taking a moment to be grateful for this day, for being alive, for anything.
3. Put away your phone and be aware of your surroundings during your commute or while you’re running errands.
Consciously unplugging while on the move will help you connect with the people, sights and scenes around you. It’s a perfect opportunity to take stock of what you’re grateful for.
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