November 16, 2017

In my last blog, I wrote about gratitude – what gratitude actually means and the positive impact it can have in our lives. In follow-up to that piece, I’m delving into the “how” of gratitude – how we can increase the attention we give to gratitude, and ways to practice or observe gratitude in both our personal lives and in our offices.

Much like there are prescribed exercises for our physical health and fitness, consider gratitude as an exercise for our mental health. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at UC Davis and world-renown expert on gratitude, suggests the following:

  • Keep a gratitude journal, it’s a conscious way to call attention to your gratitude. If writing isn’t your thing, dedicate a small portion of time to reflect on gratitude mentally.
  • Utilize visual reminders, like a gratitude jar or a bracelet.
  • Find ways to serve others. When we give back, it increases our empathy for others and fosters gratitude within ourselves.

These suggestions can also be translated to actionable items within the workplace:

  • Celebrate employee contributions, milestones and successes, both professional and personal. Share great news in employee communications, such as newsletters or on internal message boards. Host monthly, quarterly and/or annual events to recognize and honor employees. Consider extending the celebration to business partners and customers.
  • Create a visual display of gratitude. Hang a bulletin board in a high-traffic area like the break room and encourage employees to post written notes of gratitude about their co-workers. Placing the display in the front lobby or reception area shares your organization’s gratitude with your customers, vendors and guests.
  • Volunteer as an organization. There are many opportunities to serve in our communities as a group. Discover one that’s closely matched to your mission and organize a group effort. The added value will be the camaraderie that develops among your teams. Previously, I worked for a real estate developer. One of our service projects was with Habitat for Humanity. It was closely tied to our mission of improving communities, and we had the tools and expertise to feel highly valuable. Plus, our employees from entry-level to top leadership worked side-by-side in ways they hadn’t before.

Just like with unhealthy food habits, it can be easy to slip into negativity and emotions of tension, stress and anger. We must cultivate our gratitude– and support the mental health of those around us – with the same diligence it requires to be physically healthy.