In the last couple of months we’ve been out and about at events in Birmingham and London, talking to Human Resources, Learning and Development and Wellbeing folks about the magic that is gratitude. We shared our gratitude rocks and started many fantastic conversations.
It got us thinking.
Like many of the things we talk about at Fresh Air Fridays, gratitude is a brilliantly simple practice, which is easy to do. Of course that also makes it easy not to do.
Put simply, gratitude is about finding things to be thankful for on a regular basis.
Our brains are trained to seek out problems, to notice what isn’t going well. This has been a great tool in our evolution but noticing all the things that need doing, or aren’t going well, can be tough.
Thinking about things you’re grateful for can help to shift the balance, as your brain is programmed to look for more of the things it thinks you want. It really doesn’t matter how big or small the thing is that you’re grateful for, it’s the practice that starts to train our brain.
It’s important also to say though that this isn’t about putting a “positive spin” on things, pretending that everything’s fine. The neuroscience says that a gratitude practice actually helps us in tough times, enabling us to see that some things are OK, even when particular parts of life are difficult.
Everyone at Fresh Air Fridays has a gratitude practice of some sort. It just means that we all do something to help us to think about things we’re thankful for, whether that’s writing things down in a book or journal every day, using an app (like HappiJar or Perspective) or chatting about gratitude with a friend on a regular basis.
Work is just a part of life and can be a source of stress, especially if you’re feeling overloaded. It’s easy to get stuck, especially when the “to do” list is growing and the meeting schedule is relentless.
Gratitude is a simple way to help your brain move from a state of overwhelm to calm and this is just as relevant in work as it is in any part of your life.
When you’re working alongside others it can be really helpful to show appreciation for the people around you, the quality of their work, the effort they put in or the way they do it all with a smile on their face.
Showing gratitude for the efforts of others doesn’t mean pretending everything is perfect when it’s not, however genuine appreciation will be appreciated by the recipient and will probably make you feel better at the same time – a true win-win!
In the organisations we work with, we encourage people to develop a habit of appreciation for others. This is simple to do – at the end of every meeting each person says something they appreciate or acknowledge in another attendee. This can be done even in a meeting of two people.
It may feel clunky at first but over time you’ll start to see long-term cultural change – give it a try!
Sarah was on one of our courses recently. She was having a tough time with her mum who she felt was nagging her. Through our sessions Sarah began to show appreciation for her mum – thinking and talking about the ways in which she was grateful for her. She shared this with her mum too.
Their relationship transformed and, because she felt easier in this important part of her life, Sarah found that other areas of her life started to change too.
If you’d like to know more about what we do, please take a look at our website: freshairfridays.co.uk