November is National Gratitude Month, although many healthcare professionals don’t feel so…well…grateful. We get it – between the pandemic and nursing shortage, we understand why there is a reluctance to embrace a culture of gratitude this year. However, despite the challenges we’ve faced in the past few years, intentionally incorporating gratitude in the workplace is instrumental in cultivating and sustaining a healthy work environment where nurses feel supported and want to stay. Just like a healthy work environment can be cultivated over time, so can a culture of gratitude.
And we have proof why gratitude is just as important as your staffing numbers.
Research on Gratitude
Studies show that people who feel and express gratitude for what they have, and their relationships, experience amazing benefits. Psychology Today reported that gratefulness opened the door to new relationships, better health, decreased anger, and quality sleep.
In a study done by 2 psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, participants were asked to write a few sentences each week for 10 weeks on particular topics. People who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.
Another study showed that writing letters of gratitude require using fewer negative words, which made a significant difference in the mental health of participants. This suggests that when people write letters of gratitude, it helps them focus on positive experiences and not the negative.
You don’t have to communicate gratitude to someone else to feel the benefits! Just putting your thoughts of gratitude onto paper can banish negative thinking and shift your mind to positive thinking.
What was an even more interesting find from this study was that when people are more grateful, they show greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is an area in the brain linked to learning and decision-making. The hypothalamus is also heavily affected by feelings of gratitude. Basically, simply expressing gratitude physically changes the brain for the better.
How to Create a Culture of Gratitude in the Workplace
Want to improve your culture? Gratitude does that too! If just simply expressing gratitude in a journal and/or letter is a brain changer, imagine how expressing gratitude to each other in the workplace can change your work culture. Gratitude not only improves mood, relationships, and better mental balance, but also enhances productivity and plays an important role in employee success.
Employees want to feel valued, recognized and appreciated. It is a fundamental human need. Even though we should all have an internal motivation to do what we do, humans still need external recognition. Studies show that employees felt more motivated to work harder because their managers simply said, “thank you”.
Employees who are grateful spread positivity throughout their workplace, which influences others to do the same. When healthcare professionals are grateful and show positivity, patients are satisfied, and team members are more likely to work together. Gratitude can be shown to housekeepers, dietary, nurses’ aides, and physicians!
Gratitude has even been shown to create better leaders.
Ways to Cultivate a Culture of Gratitude
Now that we’ve discussed the research and benefits of expressing gratitude, the next step is implementing ways to cultivate gratitude in your department.
Write a Handwritten Thank You Note
Letting people know how grateful you are for them and that they’ve made a difference with a handwritten thank you card helps them feel valued and appreciated. Why? Because it’s more personal and takes more time, which makes it more meaningful to the receiver.
Find a “Gratitude Buddy”
Kind of like an accountability partner, choose a co-worker that you check in with to express what you are both grateful for, whether it be each other, other staff, the department, or even things outside of work.
Help others to see the good in the world
Go out of your way to share positive news with others, instead of negative. The Good News Movement is a great place to see the GOOD in the world. Their mission is literally to “bring more positivity into the world.”
Set up a “Gratitude Stop”
In a high-traffic area on your unit, set up a dry-erase board with markers. Write the question on the board, “What are you grateful for?”. Answers will flow in and help people keep life in perspective and focus on what is going right in their lives.
Greet everyone you encounter
Greet your employees/colleagues every morning with positivity and a smile, but don’t stop there. Extend the same courtesy to patients, their families, and ANY employee in your organization.
Say “thank you”
How often you express gratitude to your colleagues is so important. Say thank you as often as possible, even for the little things.
Cultivating a culture of gratitude is possible and actually doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just pick a few things to start implementing and watch gratitude grow!
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