Reduce stress by practicing gratitude
I’ve written in this space before about finding gratitude. Gratitude isn’t a typical Human Resource (HR) subject. However, in the last few years we have universally, been faced with unprecedented stress, strife and the unknown. It might be a good time for us all to look for the good things in life and reduce our stress in a healthy way by practicing gratitude. Personally, I am finding myself looking for the silver lining in the chaos of life lately.
Finding and expressing gratitude when the world around you seems to be falling apart can sometimes seem daunting. When we express gratitude or thankfulness in various ways throughout our day, we often feel better equipped to deal with life. Studies have shown that being grateful can lead to some physical and mental health benefits as well. A few examples: lower blood pressure, stronger immunity, healthier hearts, and the ability to better handle stress. Here are a few ways that you can begin to find gratitude in your life.
Start with “thank you”
Those are two powerful words. Genuine, authentic expressions of thanks can improve another person’s mood and day. Sometimes expressions of gratitude are well received. Other times they aren’t. Remember that even if the feedback is negative, showing gratitude is always the right thing. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.
There is also an art to learning how to accept a “thank you.” This is harder than it seems for some people. How often do we try to brush off thanks with a comment of, “it was nothing”? It’s like learning how to take a compliment. I had a manager once tell me in a huff, “Just say thank you.” The same goes for “you’re welcome.” Make it easy for others to express gratitude in the same way you are trying to do.
Share your smiles with others. When you look someone in the eyes and smile, most people feel a lift in their mood and smile back. Did you know when you smile your brain releases little molecules called neuropeptides which help decrease stress? Other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are also released, which boost your mood. The act of smiling helps spike natural antidepressants and boosts your resistance to disease. Who doesn’t need that?
Keep the gratitude going outside of your organization
Generosity and gratitude can be contagious. Many of you may remember a commercial where one act of kindness sparked others to act in kind throughout the day. How do you incorporate that at work? Smiling at others is one example. Another example: thank your clients for choosing your organization and for trusting your team with their money, children, time, etc. Don’t forget to be specific in your thanks.
Start small and build
Pick one of the ideas below and know that along with helping yourself, you will be brightening someone else’s day. By practicing gratitude, perhaps it becomes a healthy habit that could turn into a positive trait. Be patient and kind to yourself first, and then spread the joy.
Ways to practice gratitude
- Start a gratitude journal. In your journal, write down at least three things that you are thankful for that day. Journaling daily is a healthy habit that has been proven to activate brain areas that are related to morality and positive emotions. When you find purpose and express gratitude for the good things that come out of challenging situations, you can build self-resilience and forgiveness for others (and yourself). Reading your own words of gratefulness can also help you to feel better when you are struggling with being grateful.
- Meditate. Take a moment to start and end your day actively thinking about how thankful and grateful you are. There are many guided and self-guided options out there to fit your needs.
- Find someone to thank every day. Spread the thanks around and realize that your “thank you” doesn’t always need to be verbal. Smile or write a short heartfelt message acknowledging someone’s behavior and its positive effect on you. Give yourself the purpose of choosing someone new each day to say, “Thank you!” to.
The above was originally posted in November 2017 and has been updated.
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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.