Gratitude for a Happier Workplace


Practice SNAP & Gratitude for a Happier Workplace. Happiness spurs creativity, innovation, and teamwork; do this to make it spread. You may have read or heard about the research on the benefits of gratitude. In the realm of career and our lives at work, these include increased productivity and better management, networking, and decision-making.

Gratitude is an essential ingredient in happiness. Cultivating gratitude helps us build better relationships that are foundational for success in business, while improving our health, happiness, and resilience. Gratitude also helps us cope with difficult feelings by helping us focus on the good things in our life.

Having written extensively about gratitude and mindfulness, I was gratified when a couple of young entrepreneurs recently asked me to check out their new app called Gratitude Plus. One of them, Daniel Shaffer, was working in the tech area when he needed support in his grief after his mom passed away. He realised there didn’t already exist something that met his needs, so he created this app, which includes a community aspect to help people share and strengthen their feelings of gratitude.

The other day, while noodling around in the Gratitude Plus app, I found my mood elevated by reading the entries from strangers! There is something to this – the upward spiral of positive emotions being shared in community. I plan on creating a gratitude circle in the app, so I can have accountability, but also feel the joy from sharing the goodness. 

I am enrolled in David Kessler’s grief education certification training. He has separate online support groups for people experiencing grief. While participating in a support group isn’t for everyone, I can see how an app like Gratitude Plus can give people the amount of support they want to start and maintain a gratitude practice. 

For Daniel, creating this app helped him turn his pain into purpose, which is another huge mental health and wellbeing win. This is called eudaimonic joy, the kind we get from having a meaningful purpose and serving others. Like gratitude, the benefits of happiness are far-reaching in our lives and careers. 

Years ago, I was an attorney, and I could tell at the proverbial water cooler if people were happy or unhappy. If they were unhappy, it could cast a cloud on the day. This is particularly true for leaders, who set the tone and atmosphere in the workplace. Emotions are contagious, so leaders ought to take responsibility for their moods.

In my work today as a mindful self-compassion teacher, I find that coming from a place of happiness helps people feel good in my presence, which helps them to want to learn the lessons I am teaching. The same is true for a CEO or entrepreneur seeking to inspire their team. 

But what if you are just not feeling grateful? What if someone has done something that makes you feel irritated, angry, and stressed out? You need to deal with those feelings so you can make room for gratitude, joy, and other positive emotions. I developed a mindfulness method called SNAP to help people do this. Here’s how it works:

Soothing Touch: Place your hands where you find it most soothing — your heart, cradling your face, giving your upper arms a hug, hands on your belly, or hand in hand. I place my hands on my heart, feeling the warmth and care for myself. This will allow feel good hormones, oxytocin and endorphins, to help your body calm down. If you are in the workplace around others, you might choose a stealthy supportive touch placement like holding one hand in the other, or crossing your arms so your lower arms are applying gentle pressure on your ribcage, with your palms and fingers giving yourself a low hug. 

Name: Name what you are feeling. Perhaps it is anger, frustration, or anxiety. Label the emotion, such as “I am having anger.” Locate it in your body. If you are feeling multiple emotions, name them all. If you are alone, I recommend saying it out loud – if you are with your colleagues, saying it in your head will suffice! The mere act of labeling your emotions helps you to step back from them, giving your higher level thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, the time it needs to come online so you can make a more skillful response, instead of a rash reaction. 

Act: First ask yourself what you need to hear right now – then tell it to yourself! You might send healing thoughts to yourself, such as “You’ll get through this” or “It’s tough to feel this way, but you are not alone.” Second, ask yourself what you can do right in that moment that may help calm your nervous system – and do it! You could start with a breathing exercise, breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of six, doing this for three to five breath cycles. After that, your body will be in a calmer state for you to choose another Mindful Method tool. Taking a walk outside for a few minutes, having a cup of tea, spending a few minutes listening to a guided meditation, etc.  

Praise: Praise yourself – good job for managing your emotions! Pat yourself on the back that you got through that moment and regained your equanimity, and know that everybody around you will be better for it. Praise your practice, your teachers, and your deity of choice – if you have one. I have students that are serious practitioners in their religions and they get tremendous solace from prayer. 

BONUS: When you feel a positive mental state, let it fill you up for a breath or two. With this simple act, you take advantage of positive neuroplasticity and rewire your brain for more happiness and resilience. 

For me, practicing SNAP is integral to gratitude as gratitude is integral to mindfulness. SNAP is a way of coping with negative feelings while gratitude is key to increasing positive emotions. If you are interested in feeling more gratitude in your life, start with these three steps:

  1. Notice times when you feel joy during your day. Take in that good mental state for a couple of breaths, allowing it to turn into a neural trait. Mindfully focusing on joy helps condition your brain to feel more joy.
  2. Record it in a gratitude journal. At least once a day, answer two questions in your journal: 1) What did I enjoy today? 2) What am I grateful for today? Or check out the new Gratitude Plus app. For now, I’m keeping my old practice of writing the answers to those two questions in my journal each night, while I experiment with the app to see whether it will become a habit. So far, it’s refreshed my gratitude practice, which is a plus!
  3. Check in with yourself in about three weeks. What positive differences do you notice? How are you feeling?

Expressing gratitude to your employees or team — whether in team meetings, a phone call, or email — shows you value them as humans. When you can see their humanity and share things you appreciate about them, you help build their resilience to overcome whatever challenges they face, individually and as a team.