Psychology

Goodness of Gratitude

Gratitude is an important virtue that all of us need to carry all of the time (more essential than our mobile phones). The word is derived from the Latin root gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. There is so much advice surrounding gratitude such as "counting your blessings", "giving thanks in all circumstances", "thinking of what you have, not what you don't have", "finding joy in your everyday life", etc. Almost all religions encourage cultivating gratitude in all their believers.

Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley has succinctly summarised all the scientific benefits of gratitude into a white paper like a literature review. Now, evidence is showing that more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout. Gratitude practices such as keeping a “gratitude journal” or writing a letter of gratitude, can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood. One study found that more grateful cardiac patients reported better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation, and another found that heart failure patients who kept a gratitude journal for eight weeks were more grateful and had reduced signs of inflammation afterwards. More grateful people also experience less depression and are more resilient following traumatic events. Gratitude may be the mother of all virtues.

Additionally, gratitude inspires people to be more generous and pro-social; strengthens relationships, including romantic relationships; and may improve the climate in workplaces. For example, one study found that participants who were thanked for helping a student on an assignment were more interested in affiliating with that student in the future; another study found that partners who had a series of conversations expressing gratitude to their partner reported more improvements in their personal well-being and in the well-being of their relationship than did partners who had conversations disclosing something personal about themselves. Expressing gratitude such as praises let the receiving partner perceived the expressing partner as being more responsive to their needs, felt better about their partner in general, and felt more loving in particular.

A recent study by Portland State University, “Gratitude reception and physical health: Examining the mediating role of satisfaction with patient care in a sample of acute care nurses,” shows that being thanked more often at work predicted better sleep, fewer headaches and healthier eating, because it improved nurses’ work satisfaction. The study involved a group of Oregon nurses, a profession that has a particularly high rate of burnout. One of the researchers, business professor David Cadiz explained, "Nurses tend to have a thankless job. It’s very physical, and they’re often being screamed at by patients who are at their lowest. When nurses receive gratitude, it boosts them."

“This type of study helps us understand how to keep nurses in the workforce in a healthy way. Nurses strongly align their profession with their identity and often look out for patients more than themselves. The gratitude matches up with their identity, gives them satisfaction in a job well done and ultimately increases self-care.”

Hence, gratitude may help employees perform their jobs better, feel more satisfied at work, and act more helpfully and respectfully toward their co-workers.

Employers are recommended to create formal or informal opportunities for people to express gratitude. Leaders should thrive to express gratitude sincerely towards their contributing members. With positive feedback, employees are healthier and there will be fewer sick days, which mean less disruptions and cost to the organisations.

Below are some of the gratitude practices you can try in your life:

  1. Write down three to five things that you are grateful either daily or weekly
  2. Write and deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who have done well or helped you
  3. Reflect on your death and imagine dying in a very specific and visceral manner
  4. Spend money on experiences such as travels and activities rather than things

May you create a positive ripple in yourself and your circle of influence with gratitude!

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