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Hey, Thanks! or, the Power of Gratitude in the Workplace

(Part 1 of a 5-part Series)

At its core, gratitude is an excellent antidote for the isolation which has become such a problem for so many of us. While the COVID-19 pandemic put a painfully bright spotlight on the problems that are caused by isolation, the truth is most of us are more functionally isolated than our predecessors in both our personal and professional lives, and this has been a growing concern for decades.

When I talk about gratitude, I’m speaking about a feeling of appreciation to someone or

something that has benefitted you. It can be large, small, life-changing… and it can be direct OR indirect. For example, who are my coffee drinkers in the house? Do you KNOW the farmers who grow the beans that make that delicious elixre of life? I know a handful of coffee roasters, but I don’t personally know any coffee farmers. Despite that, I am sincerely grateful to the folks who work hard to allow me the luxury of enjoying my daily java (and so are the people who have to spend time with me).

When we experience gratitude, whether we are conscious of this or not, our brain is not only experiencing a positive outcome from whatever it is that we’re grateful about, but we’re also reminded that we’re connected to something or someone outside of ourselves.

Gratitude is fundamentally about connections.

Before we dive into the professional implications of gratitude let’s prime our brains for this

conversation by giving ourselves a little pick-me-up of serotonin and dopamine as we practice some real-time gratitude. How many of you have heard the expression “Look for the silver lining”? I appreciate the sentiment in those words, and yet sometimes life is really messy and asking people to pretend it’s not can be more hurtful than helpful. So when I got to a place in my life where things were just RUGGED, I started looking for SILVER THREADS… tiny bits of positive experience, and there are zillions of these throughout even the most rugged days.

I remember when my kids were small and somebody brought a stomach bug home, and one day, I gratefully realized OH MY GOODNESS – NOBODY got sick last night! For the caregivers

out there, you know that’s actually a pretty BIG relief… but it’s not something we would normally think of when we’re looking for things to be grateful for, and that’s a shame, because collecting small moments of gratitude periodically throughout our days and weeks is actually an incredibly powerful way to balance out our experiences.

So to kick this off, we’re going hunting for bright, shiny silver threads. Our brains process about 34 gigabytes of information every single day, so scientifically there have to be at least a handful of those moments where you felt good, grateful or positive, at least for a second or two. Don’t overthink this – and don’t reach for the obvious responses. Give yourself permission to mentally stretch JUST a moment and think about ONE THING for which you are FRESHLY grateful. It could be something that you experienced this morning, or maybe even something you’re looking forward to in the next week or so.