How Practicing Gratitude Makes You More Productive

By Emily Roner | Updated: 23 Nov, 2020

Like most ambitious professionals, you’re likely always seeking ways to be more productive. Most productivity hacks focus on making you more efficient via things like time management strategies, methods to boost energy, ways to complete tasks faster, etc.

Though hacks like those improve your efficiency, they don’t necessarily make your life better. To sustain high levels of productivity in the long run, you also need to pursue self-improvement methods that help guard you against burnout.

Practicing gratitude is one effective way to do that because it boosts your productivity while improving your quality of life in several ways. Here’s how.

Gratitude Dramatically Boosts Your Happiness

When you have a hectic schedule and are always rushing from one obligation to the next, it’s easy to forget about all of the wonderful things in your life.

Taking the time to reflect on the incredible people, opportunities, and material items that you have in your life is one of the most effective ways to boost your happiness. According to research from Harvard Medical School, practicing gratitude changes your demeanor to be positive the majority of the time. After all, it’s difficult to be upset when you focus on all of the best aspects of your life.

However, occasionally thinking about what you’re grateful for may not be enough to yield the full benefits of gratitude. Instead, it’s more effective if you practice it through actions. Dr. Martin E.P. Silegman, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, found that regularly writing thank you letters has a lasting effect on people’s happiness.

Here are some other ways to actively practice gratitude:

  • Make a habit of telling people that you appreciate them.
  • Write in a gratitude journal every day.
  • Give people who don’t get thanked very often hand-written thank you letters. Examples include your building’s maintenance people, admin assistants, interns, transit drivers, etc. It will make their day and boost your morale.
  • Call and/or visit family members and old friends and let them know you appreciate the positive impact they had on your life.
  • Etc.

Remember: the more you practice gratitude, the happier you’ll be.

It Improves Your Ability to Cope with Challenges

It’s natural that the times we tend to be the least grateful tend to be when we’re faced with frustrating challenges. However, it is those periods that gratitude is the most important to our mental well-being.

The American Psychological Association reports that gratitude enhances psychological resilience making it easier to cope with and quickly bounce back from stressors. This is a powerful benefit because it limits the effect that difficult situations have on your productivity.

Practicing gratitude has this impact because it combats two critical factors of poor psychological resilience:

  1. Individuals allowing the challenges in their life completely consume them. Focusing on the aspects of your life that you’re grateful for prevents you from experiencing this level of negativity.
  2. Feeling like there is little to nothing people can do to repair their circumstances. When you recognize the positive things in your life, it makes it much easier to realize that your situation will improve.

Developing a habit of appreciating everything you have, ensures that when challenges arise, you have the psychological resilience to cope as productively as possible.

Showing Appreciation Motivates Your Employees

If you’re a leader, it’s critical that tell your subordinates how grateful you are for them. Researchers at Wharton found that when managers say to their employees “Thank You,” their employees work significantly harder.

Too often, people invest their whole selves into their work day after day without ever receiving more than a paycheck. Over time, they can lose the motivation to perform their best since no one acknowledges it when they do.

This effect is especially powerful for lower-level employees (such as assistants, interns, entry-level employees, etc.) whose hard work often goes unnoticed. This is why companies have a large portion of employees who do just enough to keep their jobs.

Since your success largely depends on your employees’ productivity, it’s worthwhile to set up a cadence of thanking them in private and recognizing individuals in front of your teams. 

Read More: How to Capitalize on the 4 Types of Employee Motivation

Being Grateful Enhances Your Physical Well-Being

Not only does being grateful improve your motivation to be productive, but it also promotes your physical well-being. A UC Berkeley study found that practicing gratitude reduces the occurrence of common physical issues such as headaches, acne, stomach aches, and congestion. Getting rid of these issues, particularly the common aches, makes it much to more manageable to focus on your work and accomplish more.

Other studies have also found that thinking about the things you’re grateful for before bed can improve the quality of your sleep by up to 25%.

Researchers suspect that gratitude has such a positive effect on our health is that it lowers our stress levels. Since prolonged stress can cause headaches, acne, and weaken your immune system making you more prone to a variety of other issues, it makes sense that being grateful can have such a profound effect on your physical health.

Remember: to yield the full benefits of gratitude, you have to practice it regularly. Choose a couple of activities you want to do (writing in a gratitude journal, reminiscing about the things you’re grateful for, writing thank you note, etc.) and pick a consistent time of day that you can do them.