Feeling Burnt Out? Try This
Gratitude is difficult to categorize. Is it an emotion, a virtue, or a personality trait? Can it be learned and become habitual? Happily, the answer to that is yes in most cases. Some of us naturally exude gratitude. But if it’s not our natural state, then how do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude and why is it important? Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, two leading experts in gratitude, state that, “gratitude stems from the perception of a positive personal outcome, not necessarily deserved or earned, that is due to the actions of another person.”
Psychological research agrees that the more gratitude we feel, the happier we’ll be overall. Gratitude, put simply, means appreciating our lives as they are now without a need for more. In our consumer society, we’re often focused on our lack of or want for more material possessions rather than how rich our lives are in other ways. During times like COVID-19, this may be even more prevalent. People who are filled with gratitude naturally perceive the beauty and wonder of life and relate that they have more positive experiences and stronger relationships. Gratitude has also been proven to positively affect both your physical and mental health and can be a facilitator in the growth of other positive character traits such as wisdom and patience.
Gratitude is a major factor in alleviating burnout.
In a recent study by Monster.com, 50% of newly remote workers reported experiencing burnout. It was also noted by the Workplace Strategies for Mental Health organization that a daily gratitude practice, when used by people recovering from burnout, helped them see things in a more positive light. Moreover, having a daily gratitude practice can increase your alertness, enthusiasm, optimism, and energy which in turn makes you more productive and more likely to accomplish your goals. Gratitude can also be very effective in alleviating mental health problems such as stress and depression. It seems that it also makes us kinder as people with a gratitude practice have been found to be more likely to offer help to others.
So how can gratitude help you at work?
81% of employees work harder when their work is appreciated by their boss. A simple but authentic thank you to your employees can increase productivity and workplace happiness. It stands to reason that showing gratitude to our team members could also have the same effect. Conversely, The John Templeton Foundation surveyed 2000 Americans and found they show the least gratitude at work and also rank their jobs last in a list of things they’re grateful for in life.
Some people feel showing gratitude at work makes them look weak. Or maybe they don’t understand the reasoning behind thanking someone for simply doing their job. On the flip side, why not lead with gratitude when it has so many positive effects?
How do we show gratitude in a professional way?
It must be authentic and sincere. It also helps if it’s precise rather than a general thank you. The more specific you can be about your appreciation the more impact it will have. Being sycophantic is transparent and generally does not have a positive effect on the receiver. If you can learn how to express gratitude in a way that resonates with the other person, it becomes much more authentic. If the culture at work is one of gratitude and is practiced from the top down, it becomes easier for everyone to adopt. Take a moment to appreciate the people with the most thankless jobs, for example, the janitors and interns’ people who don’t usually receive much visibility or praise.
How do we cultivate gratitude?
It can be as simple as stopping to smell the roses both literally and figuratively. Taking time to appreciate the simple pleasures of life like a beautiful sunset, a freshly brewed cup of coffee, or the sun shining can reset our mind. Even playing a favorite piece of music and feeling gratitude for our bodies as we dance along can reset our mood. If we think about the good things in life as gifts not guaranteed, then we start to view the world differently. However, if we lead with an attitude of entitlement, we will always be in a state of lack or disenchantment with life.
Numerous studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal (which simply entails writing a few lines each day of things you are grateful for) or having a mindfulness practice like meditating daily can significantly improve your levels of happiness. A study in which 300 university students wrote letters of gratitude to someone who had positively impacted their life found their mental health was significantly improved 4 weeks later. Surprisingly, it stayed high 12 weeks after the study originally began. They found that it didn’t make a difference to the letter writer's happiness if they sent the letter or not, but I’m sure it increased the gratitude in the receiver.
Make gratitude a habit and your mind and your team will thank you for it.