10 New Studies on the Benefits of Gratitude

November 23, 2015 Darcy Jacobsen

‘Tis the season for thanksgiving, and in the workplace, the time when our thoughts turn toward gratitude. Gratitude has gotten a lot of press recently, as studies show how great it is, not only for us as individuals, but also for our organizations.

Two years ago at this time we shared a whole bibliography of studies on gratitude, showing some of the connections researchers have made between feeling grateful and things like emotional well-being, resilience, physical health, organizational citizenship and achievement. We thought we’d give you an update.

Gratitude has been a strong theme for us in 2015. At Workhuman, we are acutely aware of the close link between recognition and gratitude, and the need for companies to offer their employees new opportunities for reflection and for expressing gratefulness. We think of it as a core human need. In fact, we ourselves were very grateful to have scholar Robert Emmons, from UC Davis at our inaugural WorkHuman event in June. Robert, you may recall, was also generous enough to do a Q&A interview with us in July.

What’s new in the world of gratitude studies? Here are a few new studies you may have missed over the past year or so:

  • A 2015 study published in the International Business Research journal showed that collective gratitude is important for organizations. Among other things, said researchers, gratitude can reduce turnover intention, foster employees’ organizational commitment, lead to positive organizational outcomes, and help in “eliminating the toxic workplace emotions, attitudes and negative emotions such as envy, anger and greed in today’s highly competitive work environment.”
  • A 2015 article in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences showed that “higher levels of gratitude were associated with higher levels of personal well-being, greater life satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological distress.”
  • A 2014 study from Northeastern University showed that gratitude interventions could impact things like patience, deferred gratification, willpower and what scholars call “economic impatience.”
  • A 2014 study by researchers in the Indian Journal of Positive Psychology found that gratitude increases happiness.
  • In one particularly fun study from 2015, researchers found that gratitude causes individuals to prefer sweeter foods! According to researchers, this is because they the experience leading to gratitude makes people infer that they must be deserving of sweetness.
  • And finally, one slightly older study we hadn’t highlighted before is a 2012 paper from researchers at Northeastern and Gonzaga, showing that gratitude actually promotes social affiliation and strengthens relationships… something particularly useful when promoting gratitude to facilitate teamwork in a work environment.

How can you encourage gratitude among your employees? Check out these tips from Robert Emmons to get started. And consider reward and recognition as a way to facilitate both the reflection and the expression of gratitude in your company. Happy Thanksgiving!

PS: Have you thought of the three things you’re thankful for, this year?

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