How to Foster a Culture of Gratitude Year-Round

Gratitude, particularly if practiced regularly, can keep you healthier and happier.”

— Alex Korb, Ph.D.

Whether we experience the outpouring of love and gifts of attention, consideration and acts of service from our family and friends or witness a spirit of giving around us, the holiday season and an aura of thanks tend to go hand-in-hand.

While major calendar holidays always offer opportunities to show appreciation for employees and teammates, fostering a culture of gratitude should be a year-round investment.

Here’s why:

No. 1 | Being Grateful Makes People Happy

In a 2012 article in Psychology Today, Alex Korb shared four studies on how gratitude makes people happier and healthier. In one study, young adults were assigned two contrasting journal projects. One group was assigned to keep a daily journal of things that annoyed them or situations where they fared comparatively better to other people. The other group was assigned to keep a journal of things for which they were grateful. The group charged with being intentionally grateful experienced higher levels of determination, attention, and enthusiasm in comparison. Korb notes a distinction:

“Realizing that other people are worse off than you is not gratitude. Gratitude requires an appreciation of the positive aspects of your situation. It is not a comparison.”

Gratitude cannot be a means to an end. It must come from a place of genuine appreciation.

No. 2 | Showing Gratitude Makes Us Healthier

In another study from the National Institutes of Health, researchers found people who show more gratitude have overall higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. More activity in the hypothalamus can lead to more energy and enthusiasm for life in general — from better sleep to more exercise and, even, more engagement in our interconnected work and personal lives.

No. 3 | Appreciation “Pays it Forward”

Most discussion around appreciation at work comes from the perspective of the benefits to employees. The benefits of being on the receiving end of another’s thanks for one’s work is not difficult to understand. We have all felt the elation of being noticed — the pep in our step after being given a handwritten note or a reward for a job well done. Cultivating an environment that fosters gratitude for teamwork, effort, results, attitude and more can have a profound ripple effect on an organization. When one receives another’s recognition, that sense of satisfaction and “pay off” can inspire one to recycle it. Paying it forward by praising another teammate reinforces the cycle with the above-mentioned improvements on happiness and health. And on and on — the ripple effect can be immeasurable in a culture of gratitude where employees are encouraged to show appreciation for one another and receive it regularly from leaders.

As you prepare for the holidays with your family, friends, and coworkers, consider the boost showing appreciation can have on your life and the lives of those around you. Apart from the noted benefits to individuals who give and receive gratitude, a culture of appreciation can transform organizations and irrevocably change the way work gets done.