As we continue our deep dive into gratitude, it’s time to shine a spotlight on one of the hardest environments in which to be grateful: the workplace.
Whether you love your job or hate it; whether you’re burning the candle at both ends or “quiet quitting” (sidenote: not a Thing), most of us spend a third of our waking hours at work. The Great Resignation and the recent work from home revolution may have shifted what our work days look like, but along with the convenience of answering Zoom calls in your pajamas and your fridge full of groceries just 10 feet away from your desk, there are new challenges and frustrations. Which also means there are new things to be grateful for.
In the past couple of decades, scientists have been investigating the physical, mental and spiritual effects of gratitude, and the results are surprisingly quantifiable. Various studies have shown that gratitude can:
- Reduce blood pressure, stress and depression
- Improve overall physical health
- Improve overall psychological health, reducing toxic emotions like envy, resentment and regret
- Enhance our ability to empathize with others, and reduce aggression
- Improve sleep
- Improve self-esteem and mental resilience
So if your body and mind are out of whack and work is stressing you out to no end, it’s time to start being grateful.
Be grateful that you have work
As much as we might hate to admit it, having a secure stream of income is a privilege. When over 600 million people live in poverty across the globe, and 10 million Americans are currently out of work, if you have a job, by definition you have something to be grateful for. You might not love it and you might not be getting paid what you want or need, but it’s better than nothing.
Take praise and criticism in equal measure
Sure, it’s great to be told you’re doing a fine job … but when we’re called up on or criticized for our work, it can set the fight-or-flight reaction in motion. In these situations, it’s best to take a minute, breathe and try not react from an emotional place. Instead, find a place where you can have a moment to yourself and deconstruct the feedback into opportunities to be grateful.
“This isn’t your best work,” translates to, “I’ve seen your best work. It’s fantastic. How can we bring this piece up to your usual, exceptional level?”
“You’ve rushed this,” translates to, “You are usually thorough, and pay exceptional attention to the detail. Sit with it a little longer and give yourself the time you need.”
“I’m not sure these numbers are accurate.” Be grateful that you have someone supporting you by checking the facts.
Take Time in Your Schedule to Practice Gratitude
For gratitude to permeate through our work, rest and play, it’s most effective to incorporate a regular gratitude practice into your daily life. This could be as simple as asking yourself about three things you’re grateful for each morning, or as complex as writing a thank-you letter to someone you love each week. Either way, building a gratitude habit in and outside of the office will help you navigate a difficult work day that little bit easier.
Clashing with a colleague? Try a subjective approach.
Nobody enjoys conflict. But every conflict offers an opportunity to be grateful. Start by trying to take yourself out of the situation. When you can understand someone else’s point of view, you can be grateful for the reaction they give you, no matter how prickly it might be.
As Nancy Davis Kho, author of The Thank-You Project, tells Trends w/ Benefits, “In my first job, I had a boss who was an absolute tyrant, it was awful, it was hard. I’m glad he was my first boss, because it helped me learn how to identify toxic management from 50 feet away, and I also swore I would never act like that to people who worked for me.
“I don’t want to go back and relive that, but if I have to, I may as well get the good out of it. There is a good lesson in virtually every terrible situation.”
Too much work? Burnt out?
Consider this your opportunity to reassess your life. Sure, you might be fatigued, stressed and depressed, but guess what? You’ve just discovered some of your own boundaries. Take some time to really investigate what is burning you out: Is it too much work? Conflict? A feeling of inadequacy? Not feeling appreciated? Really explore how your body feels when these feelings arise. You might discover that something else entirely is at play underneath the surface.
Once you can articulate those feelings, consider how to bring them up with your manager. And if that’s not an option, be grateful that you now have a list of red flags for the next job.
This is one of those “We don’t know who needs to hear this, but …” articles. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but if you can find a glimmer of gratitude in your working days, the daily grind might become that little bit more manageable.
Andy Ritchie is a writer and editor based in Barbados.
Read more: The Science of GratitudeRead more: Expert Tips for Combating Stress