Happy New Year! Its me, Emma, with our first #workplacewellbeingwednesday blog of 2018. My chosen blog topic for this week is around the power of thanks, of gratitude. Very simply, gratitude makes us express appreciation for what we have. This is one close to my own heart as it is much more than simply trying to “think positively”. As someone who has had some pretty dark days in relation to depression and anxiety, I wish I had a pound for every time I had been told to “just think think positively”. Practicing Gratitude was actually more useful and powerful for me than positive thinking. It is actively encouraging us to recognise truths –that these things we are recognising we are grateful for are actually already present in our lives.
In 2013 a man called Dmitry Golubnichy decided to commit himself to recognising over a 100 day period the things in his life he was grateful for in an attempt to lift him from a mild depression. He recorded these on social media which went viral in 2014 as #100happydays. I was one of the people who participated and it was an eye opener. When I looked back after my #100happydays at the pictures and statements I had logged everyday I discovered it was people – actually my animals a lot of the time! – nature, landscapes and wildlife that made me feel grateful and happy. It helped me to recognise the sources of goodness in my life. Things I had taken for granted. A flushing indoor toilet. This was after spending a sub zero New Year’s Eve on my own with 3 dogs at my static caravan when I discovered every pipe and water source had frozen. Consequently I acknowledged how grateful I was for a warm, indoor flushing toilet every time I visited the ladies room after that. “You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone” Joni Mitchell sang and it is so very true. I genuinely recognised that, up until I made a conscious effort to practice gratitude, there were so many things in my everyday life that I had taken for granted but would sorely miss if they were not there.
So what are the benefits of practicing Gratitude? Recent research has presented very interesting benefits in relation to stress management and stress reduction. McCraty et al (1998) trialled 45 adults to cultivate appreciation and other positive emotions over a period of time. They noted a 23% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol in these participants. 80% showed less variability in heart rate patterns. Basically those with an attitude of gratitude experienced lower levels of stress.
When we take the time to ask ourselves what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated. Production of dopamine and serotonin increases. The more we stimulate these neural pathways through practicing gratitude the stronger and more automatic they become. It’s like going to the gym – the more you practice feeling grateful , the stronger the muscle gets. That’s why it is called practicing Gratitude.
How does this relate to our #workplacewellbeingwednesday? Well that practice of Gratitude does not stop when we set foot over the threshold at work. Focusing our attention toward the things we are grateful for in our working environment will continue this. My current 3 things to be grateful for in my work setting:
• My working environment is warm, comfortable and safe – I have access to hot tea!
• My work team - Emily and Luiza are friendly, supportive, funny and compassionate people
• My internet and all related necessary technology is working and supports me to do my job.
It can actually just become a part of our everyday way of thinking.
The below Ted Talk by David Steindl-Rasy “Want to be happy? Be grateful” explores this a little further.https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful
There are numerous apps available to encourage us to recognise and log our gratitude. I have found the “Gratitude Journal” the most basic to use. It allows me to set a daily notification reminder for me to recognise what I am grateful for.