C@W6 March 16, 2022 – Gratitude, Positive Psychology & Education: Tried & True Ways to Alleviate Workplace Stress

consciousness@work 6 – March 16, 2022 Gratitude, Positive Psychology & Education: Tried & True Ways to Alleviate Workplace Stress
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Gratitude, Positive Psychology & Education: Tried & True Ways to Alleviate Workplace Stress

Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.

March 16, 2022

Happiness is Understandable, Obtainable, and Teachable.

-Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Father of Positive Psychology

    Our previous article addressed the topic of compassion fatigue[1] in the context of care and special assistance teams. Since corporate care teams do not routinely deal with patients and clients that are suffering, the way healthcare workers do, we addressed terms that we believe are more applicable to those who support customers and fellow employees following a death or traumatic loss in their workplace, i.e. empathy fatigue and attachment fatigue. (See consciousness@work, March 2, 2022 for definitions and discussion).

    While compassion fatigue may not necessarily apply to the Foundation members’ employees in their daily work, other stressors associated with the pandemic, i.e., employees handling large workloads with reduced headcount, working longer hours from home without normal socialization, and other factors associated with the coronavirus, do fit. This week’s article briefly reviews how learning about gratitude, happiness, and offering education and training programs to workers can help employees cope with their burdensome work environments.


Gratitude in the Workplace

The fact is people are good. Give people affection and security and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and behavior.

-Abraham Maslow, American Psychologist (1908-1970)

Gratitude at Work

    Over the past two decades, hundreds of studies have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. Studies show that gratitude strengthens our relationships, improves our health, motivates us to achieve our goals, and boost our feelings of satisfaction with life. For example:

       93% of people agree that grateful bosses are more likely to succeed.

       88% of people say that expressing gratitude to colleagues makes them feel happier and more fulfilled.

       One study from Harvard University and Wharton showed that receiving a “thank you” from a supervisor boosted productivity by more than 50%. (The Greater Good Science Center)

    The Greater Good Science Center is currently involved in studies to help employers and employees alike learn more about bringing gratitude programs to the workplace.


Gratitude Practice for Nurses

    One on-going example of their programs includes gratitude in the field of nursing. The American Nurses Foundation and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, have joined forces to create Gratitude Practice for Nurses. This campaign draws on decades of research showing that practicing gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships—and is a valuable tool to respond to the stresses faced by nurses and other health professionals. 


EMS and Burnout

    Ninth Brain, an organization dedicated to supporting EMS workers says that a major component of burnout is individual and psychological. The individual’s perception of themselves and where they fit in the organization can lead to burnout.

    Their experience shows that when responders feel they are not advancing, they are more likely to suffer from burnout. However, responders who regularly engage in new training get a greater sense of purpose and are more likely to stay with an organization.

    They have found that when management provides access to more training materials with more opportunities for improvement and development, being able to move toward goals can mitigate stress and burnout. Their findings support Dr. Seligman’s model for happiness which includes finding meaning in one’s work and life in general as crucial to satisfaction.


The Science of Happiness

Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.

-Martin Seligman, Ph.D. American Psychologist


    Abraham Maslow was one of the first psychologists to suggest the need for research on why some people are able to self-actualize and experience more happiness than others. But psychologist Martin Seligman is regarded as the father of positive psychology—a growing field of study. Positive Psychology falls under another growing field– the Science of Happiness.

    According to researchers at the Greater Good Science Center, people who are happier at work are more committed to their organization, rise to positions of leadership more rapidly, are more productive and creative, and suffer fewer health problems. More and more, research is suggesting that happiness should not be an afterthought for workplaces; it should be an essential goal, entwined with the kinds of 21st century skills that are key to individual and organizational success today.

    There are numerous on-line, university courses and seminars that offer education on the science of happiness and positive psychology. Dr. Seligmans’ own site, Pursuit of Happiness is a great starting point. You can also access on-line courses on the subject of happiness at the Greater Good Science Center.


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