At first, gratitude might not seem like an emotion that fits naturally or comfortably into your workday—though it should. On an individual level, gratitude is one of the most leveling qualities available to us. It extends both inward and outward: When we’re grateful for what we have—not just in material ways but for our relationships, skills, anything—our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with the world comes into sharper focus.
In stressful situations, gratitude can be especially powerful. As Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive, “Grace and gratitude have the same Latin root, gratus. Whenever we find ourselves in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset, we can remember that there is another way and open ourselves to grace. And it often starts with taking a moment to be grateful for this day, for being alive, for anything.”
When we do take that moment to be grateful, science shows, we experience tremendous benefits. In one study published in the Academy of Management Journal, researchers asked participants to take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down a list of three things that went well that day and why they went well. They found that “a brief, end-of-workday positive reflection led to decreased stress and improved health in the evening.” Other studies show a range of physical benefits, including improved sleep quality, and a study of Swiss adults found that gratitude correlated positively with self-reported physical health. As Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, two of the foremost gratitude researchers, put it: “A life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills.”