A gratitude practice

Happy New Year! As we move into 2022, we encourage you to do so with gratitude. Many of us begin the new year with hope, positivity, and plans to do things differently. However, and as we wrote about in our post on intentions, oftentimes, that fizzles out quickly. If you back your goals with intention and fuel them with genuine gratitude, your chances of success (whatever that means to you) will be much greater. Accordingly, the positive impact of gratitude will have cascading effects on others. That’s why, at the start of this new year, we’re talking about the importance of a scientifically grounded gratitude practice, and how it can benefit you, your teams, and your workplace.

Benefits of a gratitude practice

The benefits of a science-based gratitude practice according to neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, and others:

  • Can be felt almost immediately
  • Activates the circuits in your heart and lungs that allow you to breathe more deeply and evenly 
  • Allows you to have more effective interactions/relationships with yourself (i.e., self-talk) and others (“pro-social behaviour”)
  • Minimizes the impact of past trauma and the possibility of future trauma by shifting fear pathways to “motivation and pursuit pathways”
  • Increases brain neurochemicals associated with feeling connected and contented  
  • Decreases inflammatory cytokines which are associated with diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and depression

Principles and steps for a scientifically grounded gratitude practice

First and foremost, it has to be genuine. While it can make you feel good in the moment, simply writing down or thinking about what you’re grateful for and the “good things” in your life doesn’t rewire your brain. As Dr. Huberman indicates, the key is to be able to directly associate with, feel connected to, or experience genuine empathy for someone who received your help. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Think about a situation you experienced or a story you heard in which someone was helped, or someone thanked you/showed gratitude to you for something you did for them  
  • Be sure it’s a situation that you truly connect with, either directly or by association; most effective if you were thanked or appreciated for what you did for them
  • Take a moment to actively think about, or write what led to the need for help, what the help was, and how it made you feel
  • Continue to reflect on it and connect to it for a few minutes
  • Practice this exercise at least 3 times a week, for 1 – 5 minutes

Impact of genuinely showing gratitude in the workplace

We can’t overestimate the importance of showing and giving meaningful and genuine appreciation and recognition in the workplace and beyond. While saying “great job” or “nice work” is certainly better than no acknowledgement at all, it must be sincere and specific for the recipient to experience gratitude. Doing so has a number of benefits:

  • Acknowledges the receiver as a unique individual, not simply as their role or skillset (which also aligns with the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion)
  • Contributes to higher motivation and engagement at work, which, in turn, positively impacts productivity, performance, and retention
  • Supports more effective and respectful workplace relationships
  • Has a cascading effect, in that receivers tend to ‘pay it forward’
  • Enhances your organization’s brand and reputation

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.”

William James

This year, we encourage you to make meaningful gratitude one of your intentions.