The power of thank you

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It’s been said that since we are given the gift of 84,000 seconds every day, we should use at least one of them to say ‘thank you’. That’s not bad advice. And a simple thank you does more than you might think, for you, as well as for those on the receiving end.

Experiencing negative behaviours in the workplace, from severe conflict to lesser day-to-day tensions, can be draining or distracting.

It has the power to take our minds off of the organisation we work for, and the customers or clients it exists to serve. Incivilities at work leave us physically tired, emotionally weary and more inclined to withdraw.

Research shows that being grateful can make us happier, healthier and more optimistic

Negative moods or emotions push us inward, anchoring our attention on our own situation at the expense of others’ needs. When such behaviours escalate at work, organisations or institutions can become severely dysfunctional. And real harm can occur.

But what about positive moods or emotions? Well, there is a substantial body of evidence that these can make us more helpful. More inclined to be altruistic. More concerned with others’ welfare.

Which is where being thankful comes in. Research shows that being grateful can make us happier, healthier and more optimistic. Gratitude reduces anxiety and generates positivity. It helps us build healthy relationships with others as well as handle adversity more effectively. Cicero called it the parent of all virtues. And, like any virtue it’s a characteristic that we can cultivate within our self.

I write this article, not knowing if I can be back with family in time for Christmas. Once again, the uncertainty of this virus is undermining those parts of our lives which promote wellbeing. For many, this holiday is a time to appreciate those that they love. I am reminded of a year from childhood when circumstances forced my family to celebrate Christmas during the summer months instead.

I don’t remember the gifts we had that year, or what we ate for lunch, or much of what we did, just that we made the time to celebrate when we could. It taught me to be thankful for the times we have with each other, grateful for when they come no matter the wait.

Given its positive impact on our wellbeing, perhaps it’s not surprising that gratitude in the workplace is becoming an increasingly important field of research.

A study of nursing staff undertaken last year at Portland State University for example, revealed that simply being thanked more often at work improved staff health and increased employee satisfaction.

Professor David Cadiz and colleagues concluded that gratitude in the workplace lifts us. Critically, natural civilities, our simple appreciation of each other as colleagues, might provide a strong defence against those more fractious elements within the workplace which can physically or emotionally drain and deplete us.

For such reasons, gratitude has been called an ‘antidote’ to the more harmful or toxic emotions present in the workplace. Moreover, it could be one of the best sources of workplace wellbeing because it works both directions. Feeling grateful towards your peers benefits you and them simultaneously. If I thank you it’s good for my wellbeing as well as yours. And if all it takes is a few seconds out of my day to do that, it’s got to be worth it.

Samantha Peters is Chair of the British Safety Council's Being Well Together Committee


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