Many things may come to mind when you think about gratitude. Saying grace before meals. Sending thank you cards for wedding or birthday gifts. Thanking our lucky stars after an accident or close call that could have resulted in serious injury or death.
But is science something that you associate with gratitude?
It is if you’re Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who spent eight years researching gratitude and wrote “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.” His research found that gratitude benefits people emotionally and physically. It’s one of the classical sources of human strength, along with wisdom, hope, love, spirituality, and humility.
Gratitude of the Rich and Famous
Emmons opens his book about the science of gratitude with a quote and a story. He tells how famous horror and sci/fi writer Stephen King said he felt gratitude after he survived a devastating accident being struck by a van that resulted in multiple serious injuries. He was thankful for surviving. Actor/comedian/economist Ben Stein says gratitude will make you feel rich.
What is Gratitude?
Emmons quotes the Oxford English Dictionary definition of gratitude as “the quality or condition of being thankful; the appreciation of an inclination to return kindness.” But he says a scientific definition of gratitude isn’t as easily apparent. People can feel grateful, be grateful, and have different experiences and expressions of gratitude, making it hard to pin down for scientific study.
Emmons attempts to distill gratitude to its essence, and comes close by saying that gratitude involves recognition and acknowledgement requiring intellectual effort. We have to make observations, think logically about what we observe, recognize the good even in painful and life threatening situations, and make some calculated conclusions to arrive at a an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude or gratefulness is “a knowing awareness that we are the recipients of goodness.” Emmons points out that gratitude is a chosen attitude because we must be willing to make the efforts to be grateful.
Workplace gratitude is a practice of recognizing and thanking people to motivate and encourage good behavior and performance. It involves active recognition and acknowledgement in the context of working relationships and business environments.
Measurable Benefits of Gratitude
While researching gratitude with University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullogh, Emmons discovered that when people practice gratitude on a regular, ongoing basis, they enjoy measurable psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits.
One of his gratitude experiments involved asking a group of people to write about a living person for whom they were grateful, and asking a control group to write about their living room. The participants who wrote about gratitude showed increases in positive emotion after the writing exercise.
Another study Emmons conducted was an experimental comparison of participants who kept weekly gratitude journals and participants who kept weekly journals of problems or neutral life events. This comparison showed that those who regularly recorded what they were thankful for made more progress toward goals, took better physical care of themselves and felt better physically and emotionally, and were more likely to help others with personal problems than those who recorded their problems or other experiences.
Other research about workplace gratitude shows that regularly thanking employees for their efforts and contributions creates better working relationships and a more positive work environment, and affects the bottom line positively. Gratitude stimulates the mind and body, improves employee performance, and can be taught. Strategic recognition improves productivity, creates employee engagement, and helps employees meet organizational objectives. Science makes a strong case for workplace gratitude, and you can too. Join companies like Zappos!, Grasshopper, and Disney and make workplace gratitude a part of your culture. You’ll be grateful you did.
To learn more about how gratitude can improve our lives and our job performance, please download our free Workplace Gratitude Guide today.
About gThankYou, LLC
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