Is mindfulness the missing element in your workplace gratitude culture?
A workplace gratitude culture that doesn’t sustain a commitment to mindfulness is like a flame without oxygen — it will quickly flicker out.
Workplaces thrive when they support a culture of gratitude. According to the Harvard Medical School editorial “In Praise of Gratitude,” gratitude is “strongly and consistently” associated with greater happiness.
Gratitude also “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.” In the workplace, employees who hear gratitude and are encouraged to express gratitude are more engaged and productive.
Being mindful helps us find our gratitude. Read on for advice from experts on how to recharge your workplace gratitude culture with mindfulness.
Does Your Workplace Need a Mindfulness Reboot?
A new study by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health found 85 percent of employees surveyed experienced high stress levels at work in the past year.
Worse, “their employers had made little effort to help.”
“The takeaway here is that job No. 1 for U.S. employers is to reduce stress in the workplace,” Harvard’s Robert J. Blendon concluded.
A stressed, burnt-out workplace is unfocused, forgetful, cynical and exhausted.
“When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat,” psychologist Dr. David Ballard explains in the Forbes article, “10 Signs You’re Burning Out.”
A narrowed focus can be helpful in the short-term, but over time our bodies and minds start to wear out.
“When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues for a long time and we have difficulty paying attention to other things. This ‘fight or flight’ tunnel vision can negatively affect your ability to solve problems or make decisions. You might find that you’re more forgetful and have a harder time remembering things,” Dr. Ballard says.
This is where the mindfulness-gratitude connection comes in. Workplace stress is so all-consuming that it pushes out gratitude. Everyone is too wrapped up in stress to notice anyone else, let alone take note of kindnesses or good work.
“We’re so distracted, we’re no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that our most important to us,” mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe says.
A workplace mindfulness practice helps pull employee attention back to the present. Meditation is one of the best ways to do this, according to Puddicombe and other advocates of mindfulness.
A 2016 study found 22 percent of companies have mindfulness training programs already in place, and another 21 percent plan to add a mindfulness training component in 2017.
Big-name companies like Google, General Mills, Intel, Aetna and Goldman Sachs already swear by mindfulness for happier, more productive employees.
More Mindfulness, More Gratitude
Mindfulness in the workplace helps us notice the “little wins” of everyday excellence and positive interactions.
“With mindfulness, we see things as they are, rather than as they used to be or as we wish they could be. Too often, we forget that life is not lived only in the ‘big events’, but also in the everyday ‘little’ ones. … We increase the influence that these interactions, experiences and situations have on our lives. In turn, we can cultivate gratitude for these moments,” writes Mindfulness Without Borders’ Theo Koffler.
Regular practice is key to mindfulness — and to gratitude. Clinical psychologist and Santa Clara University professor Shauna Shapiro relates an anecdote about the importance of practice in a blog post for the Greater Good Science Center.
Years ago, Shapiro was struggling at her first meditation retreat. On the fourth day, a monk asked her how she was doing and “out of my mouth came a deluge of the anxieties I had been carrying around.” She had decided that meditation wasn’t for her. She was trying so hard and just getting “tangled up.”
She told the monk, “Meditation must be for other, more spiritual, calmer kinds of people.”
His response has stuck with her to this day:
“Oh dear, you’re not practicing mindfulness. You are practicing impatience, judgment, frustration and striving. … What you practice becomes stronger.”
In science, this is called neuroplasticity. Study after study has shown that our repeated experiences shape our brains.
Organizations that encourage and help sustain mindfulness as a regular practice literally help employees improve their brain habits and increase gratitude.
Mindfulness is just one way to build up your workplace gratitude culture! For an in-depth guide to Transforming Your Workplace with Gratitude, download our FREE eBook below and start today.
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