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  • Writer's pictureKiley Elsberry

Gratitude: Five Keys to Success

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

Tis the season to be thankful. But what purpose does gratitude serve in our everyday lives? The answer may surprise you. Research in Positive Psychology has shown that gratitude is a key contributor to happiness, success, and overall life satisfaction. Harvard professor, author, and positive psychologist Shawn Achor reveals in his book “The Happiness Advantage,” that happiness actually makes you more successful, not the other way around, and gratitude is a key component. According to the research revealed in Achor’s book, here are five ways gratitude can make you more successful in the workplace:

1. Performance

Studies have shown that when primed with positive emotions before a task, the individual performs the task faster, with less error, and more creatively. For example, doctors who were primed with positive thoughts not only performed the correct diagnosis twice as fast as the control group, they showed more intelligence and creativity in the process. Therefore, exercising gratitude at work can and will help you perform your work more efficiently.

Activity: Write down three things you’re grateful for each day.

2. Memory

Experiments have shown that positive emotions, such as gratitude, can actually enhance your brain’s capabilities to process more information, organize the new information, store that information longer, and retrieve it faster in the future. This happens because the visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for sight, is sensitive to emotions. When we are in fight or flight, our attention narrows, and when we are feeling good, our attention widens and our brains are able to process more information.

Activity: Write down one detailed positive experience from your past.

3. Health

When you’re experiencing high levels of stress, your body automatically releases adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which can cause negative health affects if endured over long periods of time.

Positive emotions not only combat the negative effects of stress, through the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, but they can also help you recover from the negative effects of stress faster because they actually help boost the immune system.

Activity: Meditate for two minutes, focusing on your breathing. Breath in for four counts, hold your breath for two, and breathe out for six.

4. Opportunity

Studies have shown that priming your mind with positive thoughts allows your brain to not only see more in your environment visually but also opportunistically. When we are happy, our brains process more, which allows us to see out-of-the-box solutions, spot opportunities, and more easily build upon the ideas of others.

Activity: List three good things that happened that day. This trains your mind to look for the positive in your environment

5. Leadership

Perhaps the most practical and applicable form for leaders of practicing gratitude at work is verbal appreciation, and its benefits are priceless. Providing frequent recognition and encouragement has been proven to increase employees’ productivity, and not just by a small amount.

One study showed that teams with encouraging managers performed 31 percent better than teams whose managers were not as openly encouraging. In fact, specific and deliberate recognition has been proven to be more motivating than money. Some suggestions for workplace recognition include a complimentary e-mail, verbal praise for a job well done, employee of the month, or a thank you card. You can get as creative with this as you’d like.

Activity: Write one quick e-mail in every morning thanking or praising a member of your team.

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