November 13, 2017

‘Tis the season for stress, frustration and anger… er, gratitude. It’s November, near Thanksgiving, and the midst of our American season dedicated to marking a bit of gratitude for the grace life has given us. And while I cherish this opportunity, I am keenly aware that gratitude should be a never-ending season.

Today’s workplace – and largely our lives overall – are rife with increasing tension, anxiety, and disagreements. Moreover, anecdotally, therapists are reporting soaring levels of new and returning clients struggling with aggression, intimidation, bullying, blaming, and news of assaults and shootings. We have a serious problem in our culture and gratitude is perhaps a key part of the solution.

Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at UC Davis, is considered the world’s leading expert on gratitude. He defines gratitude based on two key components:

  • Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. Essentially, it is the acknowledgement that there is good in the world and that we receive benefit from that goodness.
  • Gratitude is also a recognition that the goodness comes from someplace or someone outside of ourselves. Higher powers or other people have helped us achieve the goodness in our lives.

Emmons also references the four ways he believes gratitude impacts our lives for the better:

  • Gratitude allows us to celebrate. Our emotions are fleeting and gratitude gives us something to perpetually come back to.
  • Gratitude blocks toxic emotions like envy, regret, and depression. You cannot be grateful and envious of someone else at the same time.
  • Grateful people are more stress-resilient. Research has shown that people who are grateful recover more quickly from trauma and suffering.
  • Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth. Emmons refers to gratitude as the “moral memory of mankind.”

In our workplaces, is gratitude one of our organizational core values?  Can we weave gratitude into our brand and standard operating procedures?

With a better understanding of what gratitude is, and how it can improve our lives, work, experiences and interactions, we have a choice about our perspective on the world.