The world we live in is fast-paced and competitive. It can be easy to overlook the good things around us every day. Yet, if we don’t recognize what we have to be thankful for, we may not experience gratitude at work. Gratitude is an important part of social relationships. It allows us to show others that we appreciate them and it makes us feel good to know we helped others. When people help one another, and show gratitude for what they’ve done, it can drive a more positive work environment.
Yet, because of the stressful nature of our work environments, it can be hard to recognize benefits around us. Imagine a coworker going out of their way to help you with something, but their email comes while you are focusing on finishing a high-visibility presentation. You might not recognize their help as fully, because you’re immersed in what you’re doing. But, if you had recognized their help, you might be more grateful. Read more below to see how paying more attention to benefits around you can help you to be more grateful!
Mindfulness Promotes Positivity and a Focus on Others
The practice of mindfulness comes from ancient Buddhist traditions. The idea is to shift your mindset into a place where you are immersed in the present and are not judging what is happening around you. When you get into this mindset, you’re able to get disentangled from your work stressors. You then see situations around you more clearly, because you’re not worried about the past or the future. Thus, mindfulness shifts you into a more positive state because you’re not bogged down by the weight of counterproductive thoughts. For example, if you’re having a bad day, you’re able to recognize it as temporary. You’re not ruminating on past bad days, or worried about future days that might be bad as well.
Mindfulness also helps you to get out of an egotistical state of mind. When you’re not totally immersed in your tasks, you can step away and see the bigger picture. This helps you to notice people around you, as well as the things they do. For example, if you’re immersed in a task, and someone leaves a snack on your desk for you, you might not notice it. But, if you’re in a less self-centered state of mind, you might more easily realize they’ve done you a favor. Overall, practicing mindfulness can help you to get out of your own head and to see the good around you instead!
Being Happier and Other-Focused Prompts Gratitude
Recently, my colleagues and I conducted research which demonstrates that mindfulness makes you more grateful. This is because gratitude requires two key things. First, you need to recognize the benefits that surround you. Second, you need to understand the cost that providing these benefits had to others. Without recognizing what you have to be grateful for, you can’t experience gratitude. Even if you realize there are benefits around you, you can’t get the full effect without understanding that the benefits took time and effort!
So, to maximize your gratitude, you really need both components. As mentioned above, mindfulness promotes a mindset that allows for both the recognition of the good around you, and others’ efforts. Using the example above, if someone leaves a snack on your desk, you might be more likely to see it if you’re already in a positive state of mind. We tend to see the world with “rosier” glasses when we already feel good. Then, once you’ve seen it, you’re more likely to understand that it took time from their busy day to bring you the snack, if you’re more able to take their perspective. So, this is how mindfulness links to gratitude! In our study, we found that mindfulness made people recognize over 50% more benefits in their environments!
Gratitude Makes You Want to Help Others – And You Actually Do!
Finally, it’s crucial to understand why we might want to promote gratitude at work. First, when you’re in a more grateful state, you’re more likely to want to help others. Sometimes people are motivated to help others at work simply because they think they’ll get something in return. But, these kinds of exchanges are still self-centered! Gratitude can provide a way to make people want to help, without making it about the “helper”. This means that you can create more pure motivations to help others, in teams or divisions, by enhancing gratitude.
Second, when you want to help others, research shows that you actually will! When employees are motivated to help their colleagues, they are more likely to do so. Teamwork is so crucial for organizations to foster, especially now that many teams are working remotely. When employees are willing to help one another, teams function more smoothly. So, enhancing motivation to help through gratitude allows organizations to create the collaborative, team-focused environments they rely on. Overall, because mindfulness allows employees to feel happier and to see things from others’ perspectives, it boosts gratitude. Then, once people feel grateful, they want to help others, and actually do! The takeaway: allow your employees time to practice mindfulness and they’ll help others more as a result. We’ve talked about enhancing gratitude at work before, but this new research shows the importance of mindfulness at the root of it all.