As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us will ponder what we are grateful for and possibly share what we are thankful for during our holiday meal. Giving thanks and expressing gratitude is an old and trusted concept. What is gratitude? It is the ability to recognize goodness in both your life and in the actions of others. Practicing gratitude helps you shift your focus from a glass half empty to a glass half full; or from what your life lacks to what it has. We each have our own perspective on gratitude. Although the past year and a half has been challenging, stressful and at times overwhelming, there is still much to be grateful for.
Benefits of Gratitude
- Positively impact our mood and perspective
- Reduce stress
- Help calm fear and anxiety
- Help us be more optimistic and hopeful
- Build greater personal resilience
- Lead to a stronger immune system
- Reduce the symptoms of depression
- Improve sleep quality
- Improve health, including fewer headaches, gastrointestinal problems and respiratory infections
- Reduce burnout
- Strengthen personal and work relationships
How to Get Started
Are you ready to reap the benefits of practicing gratitude? A few ideas include the following:
- Write a thank you note, send a text or email to others expressing why you are grateful and specifically how you benefited or what was meaningful to you.
- Tell someone when you appreciate them – not only for the big things but for small things too.
- Be specific in your gratitude. Instead of only saying thank you, add thank you for … and then share exactly why you are grateful.
- Appreciate another person’s wins, including small victories.
- Start a gratitude journal. Write down three things you are grateful for as you start or end your day. These could be positive thoughts, emotions or interactions you experienced. If you don’t want to write, then think about three things you are grateful for each day.
- Use an app such as Gratitude Plus that allows you to track your gratitudes and sends a daily reminder to help you develop the habit. Or engage a gratitude partner who can help you remember to share.
- Sign up for Thnx4, the Greater Good Science Center’s online journal, which prompts you to share and document thanks on a regular basis.
- Give thanks at bedtime to help get your mind in a peaceful state for sleep. It doesn’t have to be something significant – maybe that hot cup of coffee, a sunny day or the beautiful foliage on your walkway.
You can also reflect on showing gratitude at work. Expressing gratitude to co-workers and colleagues can improve the work environment and boost morale. What can your team do to implement the practice of gratitude? Some ideas might include the following:
- Provide education on the science of gratitude.
- Add a gratitude huddle to the end of your shift or at your safety huddle, and ask each nurse to say something they felt grateful for at work that day.
- Start a gratitude board for staff to leave notes of appreciation and/or thanks and support for each other.
- Recognize a team member monthly who often spreads positivity during these difficult times.
- Start an online recognition platform to share expressions of gratitude.
- Be there to help when colleagues need it.
- Provide blank cards for staff or patients and families to write notes of thanks or support for each other.
There is no doubt that living and working during a pandemic has been and will continue to be challenging. Implementing gratitude practices helps us cope with stressful times and experiences by reminding us of what is positive in our lives. The American Nurses Foundation and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, created the Gratitude for Nurses campaign to help nurses cultivate gratitude in their personal and work lives. Their page has a free toolkit to download as well as other resources.
Practicing gratitude is free, and we can do it. Plus, it has many benefits for the health of mind, body and spirit. Once you start looking for things to be grateful for, you will notice that you begin to appreciate even the simple things in life you may have taken for granted. I like this quote by Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and philosopher: “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
Start to bring gratitude into your life and your experiences. I started making gratitude part of my life by saying three things that I am grateful for at the end of each day.
How will you build a culture of gratitude and appreciation for yourself and among your colleagues?