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Grumpy or Grateful? Is your attitude good for your health?

on Monday, 10 September 2012. Posted in Satisfaction At Work

Happy person

New research suggests that our attitude has a significant impact on our health and happiness. And, you guessed it, being grumpy does not generally result in a long, healthy, happy life! On the flipside, living a grateful life leads to better overall health, fewer physical symptoms and more energy.

Gratitude can also be a helpful strategy when dealing with personal loss such as work redundancy, financial or relationship issues. It can help us enjoy our lives and have fun at work. Indeed, the health and general well-being benefits of gratitude are so positive, that they should have us all enthusiastically counting our blessings.

What is good about the attitude of gratitude?

Researchers have found that grateful or optimistic people experience the following physical benefits:

  • They exercise more regularly
  • Report fewer physical symptoms (such as headaches and stomach aches)
  • Experience more positive states of alertness
  • Sleep more easily & experience better sleep quality
  • May experience higher levels of immunoglobulin A, allowing them to better fight common viral infections
  • Have reduced stress hormone levels in the body

Research suggests that the wider well-being benefits and qualities that flow from gratitude include:

  • Higher levels of positive emotions (including fun and joy), life satisfaction, vitality
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Better able to handle stress i.e. resulting from such things as redundancy, financial or relationship challenges and so on
  • Social networks find grateful people generous and helpful
  • There is a greater likelihood amongst grateful people of them acknowledging a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others
  • Less importance is placed on material goods or trying to emulate others materially
  • Possessions are more likely to be shared with others

How can I cultivate the attitude of gratitude?

Dr Robert Emmons and his colleague Michael McCullough are leading gratitude researchers in the U.S. They have found that gratitude has powerful benefits and suggest the following strategies to help us easily cultivate a grateful attitude:

1. Keep a daily gratitude journal

Keeping a gratitude journal can be an extremely effective tool in developing gratitude and experiencing the benefits outlined above. The practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. And, this is not hard to achieve. A few hours writing a gratitude journal over three weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. And, gratitude is not just about settling for what we have. These researchers found that people who keep gratitude journals can actually be more successful in achieving important personal goals (e.g. health, academic and interpersonal).

2. Use visual reminders

Two obstacles to being grateful are forgetfulness and lack of awareness. You can counter them by giving yourself visual cues that trigger thoughts of gratitude. Emmons explains that he puts Post-It notes listing his blessings in many places, including on his refrigerator, mirrors and the steering wheel of his car. Another strategy is to set a pager, computer or PDA to signal you at random times during the day and to use the signal to pause and count blessings.

3. Focus on the good things others have done for you

This can make us realize how interdependent we are and makes us realize that we are loved.

4. Find gratitude partners or supporters

Ask a friend or family member to help you. It’s often hard to see for ourselves how much we are complaining.

5. Appreciate the moment

Use your senses to come into the present and appreciate the small gifts in the moment – the smile of a child, the taste of sweet fruit, the beauty of a sunset.

6. Take grateful actions

Smile, perform random acts of kindness, help a stranger.

7. Increase your fun at work

It is easy to grumble about work. However, being consciously grateful for our jobs, will increase our enjoyment and fun at work. And, it will also make us easier to work with and lighten the day of those we work with.

Use the positive strategies above and any other strategies you can think of to reduce grumpiness and develop an attitude of gratitude in your life. Celebrate the joy of life by becoming a habitually grateful person. People will like being around you. You will have fun at work and share that fun with others. And, you will be able to use gratitude as a strategy to help you better meet life’s challenges. Gratitude increases both your health and general well-being. Give it a try and see what happens!

Authors:

Dr Kathryn Owler and Ross Thomson, Directors of Joyworkz Ltd.

References:

Fernandex, A. 'Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons'. Retrieved 8.9.12 www.sharpbrains.com/blog

Campbell, Ph.D., Bruce. ‘Counting Your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves Your Health’. CFS & FM Self Help. Retrieved 26 August 2011 http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org.

Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). ‘Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389.

Tips, training and resources

Staff training: Training for staff can motivating and help staff know that you care. Joyworkz offer a range of workplace wellness seminars such as Effective Strategies to Enjoy Your Work that assist staff to be healthy and happy at work.

A wellness programme: This has the added advantage of providing a workplace with an array of team building activities that are known to contribute to employee motivation and loyalty. If you need help getting started, consider Joyworkz SimplyWell™ package, which takes the stress out of designing a workplace wellness programme.

Fun at work books: There are a range of good books available on promoting fun in the workplace. David Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes are well known authors. Dr Kathryn Owler, director of Joyworkz and local author, has also written Fun at Work: A journey of acceptance, joy and true meaning, a refreshing read for anyone seeking more fun at and enjoyment at work.

Visual prompts: Visual prompts in the workplace can be useful. For instance, the free Alsco Heart Health Poster encourages staff to have a good laugh at work.

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