“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – Proverb
When people talk about the ‘gift of gratitude,’ they often assume it only means the act of expressing our thanks to another. What most miss, however, is the gift we receive when we are grateful ourselves. Expressing gratitude alters us on a biochemical level. We feel happier and our mood lightens. This emotional lift is due to the evolution of our social engineering and the requirement for large groups to co-operate successfully for survival.
As such, we’re biologically built for gratitude and earn small amounts of dopamine and serotonin each time we express it in some way. These two natural substances make us feel happy and lighten our mood every time we’re grateful.
At the height of my illness, which left me house-bound for several years, I sought ways to find good out of a very bad situation. My wife and daughter had severe health conditions of their own and it was a turbulent time for us as a family. In an act of desperation, I maintained various virtual contacts as a way of remaining connected in some way to the outside world. Every time I received a lovely email from someone, I would file it in my “Gratitude Folder”. On the days when I struggled most, I would pull up an email or two to shift my focus from what I had lost (my health, vitality and work) to what I still had (family, amazing friends, colleagues and former clients).
Later I discovered Brother David Steindl-Rast’s Website, Gratefulness.org, which reminded me that abundant thinking can shift not only our mental state, but our physical one too. Gratitude, it turns out, impacts us on a molecular level. I am convinced that my daily acts of gratitude accelerated my own healing process.
Showing appreciation for others is a great way to build trust in your team. Conscious Leaders express gratitude automatically because it is ingrained in their way of being. If you are not sure how to appropriately display gratitude for your team, consider these 8 ways to foster a culture of thanks within your organization.
(1) It may be cliché, but ‘stop and smell the roses.’ In other words, encourage your team to pause occasionally and savor the moment, help them just to be present and pay attention to the now.
(2) Encourage each member to write an ‘oath of gratitude’ and take a moment each day to reflect on it. Gratitude is a conscious decision and requires practice. Over time, they may start a “Gratitude Folder” of their own.
(3) Provide the team with inspirational and motivational quotes. Gratitude is affected by the environment in which we operate, make the team environment a richly encouraging space.
(4) We’ve all heard of dream boards. Encourage the team to start a gratitude board. Ask them to post things for which they’re grateful. It is a great conversation starter and builds trust along the way.
(5) It’s only natural to compare ourselves to others, which can be quite unhelpful, especially when the goal is more gratitude, not envy. In fact, comparisons can create the opposite result, so periodically remind your team to encourage them to celebrate each other’s wins.
(6) Negative language also alters your mental chemistry so it should be avoided. Again, it’s easy to say, harder to do. One way to encourage positive communication, without punishing people for their negative emotions, is to redirect their attention through a tip or gratitude jar. Every time a team member catches another using negative speech, they have to put a token amount in the jar. Use the funds to reward the team periodically, which can lead to even more gratitude!
(7) Being happy with what you have – right now – is key to contentment. Actively encourage the team to share (perhaps at the weekly staff meeting,) one thing they’re grateful for that week.
(8) The highest sense of gratitude often comes from helping others. This is particularly true in a team environment. Encourage the team to actively support each other to succeed and find ways to reward their successes.
Conscious action step: Select 3 ways to express gratitude (from the above) and begin implementing them with your team members. Then periodically add more and more ways to encourage even greater gratitude. By the way, happy people are more productive too … so gratitude is also smart business!
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