Showing Gratitude at Work is Good for You

Gratitude at Work | Mental Health Blog

Showing Gratitude at Work is Good for You

Gratitude at Work | Mental Health Blog

No matter what you do for a living, some days on the job are simply more stressful than others. And when you’re having a bad day, it is especially easy to take it out on your co-workers by getting snippy or not showing any appreciation for their hard work. But, according to new research, if you can make the effort to become a little more positive towards them, you just might find that you will all reap some health benefits.

The study, which was conducted at Portland State University in Oregon, found that both the people who show gratitude to those around them at work and the colleagues receiving that gratitude have better physical and mental health.1 These results are based on an investigation that included nearly 150 nurses. The researchers chose this particular profession because nurses often work long hours performing very physically taxing duties and may not always be treated well by sick, often miserable patients.

Know your limits. The healthiest version of ourselves lies somewhere between giving ourselves grace while still having challenging goals. A good place to start is by being honest with yourself about what works for you and what doesn’t.

All the subjects completed questionnaires once a week for a total of 12 weeks. In the questionnaires, they were asked to elaborate on their work experiences, noting all events both positive and negative that took place and their general health for the week. The investigators then analyzed these responses and discovered that giving and receiving thanks more frequently at work is associated with better quality of sleep at night, having fewer headaches, and making healthier dietary choices—all of which was also related to the participants feeling a greater level of job satisfaction.

None of this should really come as a shock since most of us spend the bulk of our days during the week at our workplaces. If things are going wrong there, we end up unhappy and stressed out, which can lead to all sorts of physical problems including tension headaches, insomnia, and stomach difficulties. And long-term job dissatisfaction was shown in a 2017 study at Ohio State University in Columbus to have a cumulative effect that correlates to both mental and physical issues by the time a person reaches their 40s.2

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Nurses may be a more extreme example than many other occupations—few of us have someone yelling at us because they haven’t yet seen a doctor in the emergency room, for example—but these findings would likely apply to those in any profession. Consider a day when your supervisor berated your work habits or you put a lot of effort into a presentation only for it to receive a lukewarm review. These kinds of occurrences can take a toll mentally, which then leads to the physical reactions. As Jon Barron explains in a chapter from his book, Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, titled “The Thought That Kills,” our mental state can lead to our physical undoing.

What is amazing about the current research is the fact that all it took to improve the health and quality of life for the nurses in the study was some well-timed praise each week. Feeling appreciated and valued can make a huge impact on our self-esteem, happiness, and health.

Ultimately, the takeaway from this finding is that you should strive to be more complimentary and appreciative at work, no matter what you do for a living. You may not have any control over how others treat you, but you can be the one who is positive, setting a tone of kindness that might become a model of behavior for everyone else around you. Even if you don’t think someone is deserving of your praise on a particular day, try to find some way to show gratitude about the effort they put forth.

What’s more, there is no reason to think that the same would not hold true at home and in other situations. Think before you speak to try to avoid negativity, and make a point of finding something to complement about everyone. Anything that may make another person smile is worth the effort, and you will feel better for giving them a moment of happiness.

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  • 1. Starkey, Alicia R.; et al. "Gratitude reception and physical health: Examining the mediating role of satisfaction with patient care in a sample of acute care nurses." Journal of Positive Psychology. 14 February 2019. Accessed 20 March 2019.
  • 2. Dirlam, Jonathan and Zheng, Hui. "Job satisfaction developmental trajectories and health: A life course perspective." Social Science & Medicine. 24 January 2017. Accessed 21 March 2019.