An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude There is great uncertainty in health care today about what will happen in the future.  Many nurse leaders tell me that work environments are very stressful as organizations try to plan their strategic direction.  It is clear that there probably will be less reimbursement and a greater emphasis on controlling costs.  We can’t change the reality of this situation but we do have control over how we think about it.

Peter Drucker, whom many consider to be one of the greatest thought leaders on management, observed that the job of leaders is to interpret reality even in the toughest of circumstances.  At the same time, he believed that leader have a responsibility to keep hope alive and focus on what is working well.   Having an attitude of gratitude can help to balance out the negative effects of the challenges and stresses.  The benefits of gratitude for both leaders and followers include include reduced stress, optimism, better cognition and improved health.  So here are 5 ways that nurses can develop an attitude of gratitude mindset:

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Dr. Robert Emmons in his work on gratitude found that keeping a gratitude journal resulted in better sleep and more energy.  Each day, take the time to consider 3-5 things that you feel grateful for.  These could be simple magic moments like a smile from a baby or a call from a close friend or perhaps bigger achievements like acceptance to graduate school or getting a new job.  The point of the journal is develop a conscious mindset to focus on the positive things that happen in life.

  1. Stop Complaining

Have you ever noticed how whining can be contagious.  There are problems in every work environment and people who spend most of their time focused on the negative.  Commit yourself to think and speak positively.  If you are very upset about a situation, give yourself a time limit to vent your concerns and then move on to more positive thoughts.  Be grateful for the tough times because it will teach you to deal with adversity and there are always some positive outcomes from even the most negative experience.  In most situations, it is important to consider that things could be worse than what you are experiencing,

  1. Show Appreciation

If you actively look for things to be grateful for, you may be surprised at how much good there is in your life.  Your appreciation of others can have a very powerful impact on their life and also make you feel better.  Great nursing leaders know that it is important to begin with praise and honest appreciation of their staff.  During tough times, this can mean much more than a raise that you are unable to give.  A culture of appreciation and gratitude is very powerful and benefits everyone on the team.

  1. Write Thank You Notes and Emails

Take the time to send a note or email of appreciation to that person that you may take for granted but deserves your thanks.  People will never really know the positive impact that they have unless you tell them.  You will brighten someone’s day and it will make you feel better as well.

  1. Visit a Patient with a Terminal Illness

We sometimes fail to put our lives and problems in perspective.  Spending time with a patient who has a terminal illness can help us reflect on adversity and what is really important in life.  Not only will you feel good for taking the time to do this but you may also find that the patient is quite a source of inspiration for you.

When you feel stressed at work, stop yourself, reflect and just begin to notice others and what they do for you.  Gratitude is a way of investing in both ourselves and others.  So begin today with a mindset of gratitude and thank those who make a difference in your life and work.


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