This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.
Research suggests that there is a link between the benefits of gratitude, which is the practice of counting your good fortune -- such as having good health, feeling safe, having loving family and friends --and your well-being.
Your mental health is influenced by what you focus on -- if you focus on the positive, most likely you'll feel more positive, too. I have coined this as the 98-2 theory. Here's what that means. It's common for a person to report that 98 per cent of their day is going well and two per cent is not. Oftentimes, as a result, 98 per cent of their focus is on the two per cent that's not going so well. This can then cloud their perceptions, and instill a negative bias, as to how well their life is going right now. It can also affect their level of stress and sense of balance and calm.
Whether you perceive that your day is going well or not, the vast majority of people can still find things to be grateful for if they look.
So, what are you grateful for? Have you thought about that recently? Your mental health is shaped by stress as well as by the good things you have in your life. For some people, learning to be grateful takes practice.
This micro skill encourages you to take a few moments each day to reflect and acknowledge what you have to be grateful for. This reflection can be done inside your head or in writing. I like to call it "an attitude of gratitude."
The benefits of having an attitude of gratitude are wide ranging, such as improving your relationships, physical health, psychological health, sleep, self-esteem, and mental health.
This daily practice can quickly help a person shift their focus from complaining about what they don't have or think they deserve to what they know they have that is positive and a benefit to them.
Here are some simple ways you can start to practice gratefulness.
For seven days, take a few moments at the end of each day to reflect and acknowledge what you are grateful for and why. Consider all the people with whom you interacted and the ones you thanked and acknowledged.
This activity is a first step towards discovering what you are indeed grateful for. The vast majority of people who stop and think will find little and big things to be grateful for each day.
Gratitude comes in many forms. Expecting your car to start on a minus-35-degree Celsius Canadian winter night may seem trivial, until your vehicle refuses to start.
It's helpful to learn how to not allow expectations to blind us from being grateful for both the little and big things that we have and that are working well in our lives.
Get a daily boost
Gratitude can fuel life satisfaction and contentment. Through daily reflection and practice, gratitude can become a positive boost. When practiced regularly it can provide a positive reserve to draw upon in those moments of life when you feel stressed and challenged.
The daily practice of acknowledging at least one positive action, person or thing, will charge your gratitude battery.
There's something to be grateful for every day if you give yourself a chance to look. Whenever you are focused on something positive you are giving your mind a break from negativity, and that can improve your mood and outlook.
Once a day is over, you can't get it back. You can, though, enjoy the journey. Taking time each day to focus on what you are grateful for is a discipline that takes practice. If you are alive each day you have something to be grateful for. Being grateful is a decision. Making it daily is a positive action for your long-term mental health.
Gratitude research suggests that practicing gratitude over time can help you learn how to better deal with adversity, create positive emotions and energy, and learn how to enjoy life better.
Research sources promote the value of adding a daily dose of gratitude to promote your overall health.
It costs nothing to acknowledge yourself or others each day. When done authentically it will make you feel good.
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.
This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.
This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.
You can find all the stories in this series at this link: http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward