Let’s start with two goals:
- I want to feel less anxiety and more joy in each moment.
- I want to love the people I work with.
Those are reasonable goals, right? You don’t like feeling anxious or stressed, and you’d rather love the people you work with than be annoyed by them.
If you agree with those goals, then try the following Gratefulness Therapy practice. It has been transformative for our team.
But before explaining the practice, let’s do a quick experiment. To feel is to understand.
* INTERACTIVE EXPERIMENT TIME! *
Think about something that gives you anxiety. Maybe it’s your never-ending list of work tasks that keep piling up (and yet you’re reading this!), or maybe it’s the health issue you or someone you love is experiencing, or maybe it’s that difficult conversation you’re avoiding but know you really need to have, or maybe it’s how busy you are, or how much you travel, or how you really want to spend more time with family and friends but just don’t have enough time…
Feel that anxiety. Notice how your muscles tighten, your heart beats faster, and your mind runs away.
Now look up from your computer and find one small thing in your environment you are grateful for. It could be the leaves of a tree that dance with the wind, the steam rising from your cup of coffee, or the smiling face of the person across from you.
For 20 seconds, sit with this gratitude. Repeat to yourself, “I’m grateful for this. I’m grateful for this.” Feel the gratitude build inside you.
Try this for 20 seconds.
How’d it feel?
I notice two things immediately.
- While feeling gratitude, my anxiety temporarily went away.
- An uplifting sensation washed over me.
Did you notice that too?
Negative emotions cannot exist in the presence of gratitude. Gratitude takes control of the mind and sweeps positivity across the body. All anxiety, fear, and negativity melts away.
This is the magic of gratitude. It immediately changes your state.
And this is a clue to achieving our first goal. When we feel grateful, we experience less anxiety and more joy. Gratefulness, then, should be a regular practice.
However, most of us don’t actually set aside time to practice gratitude on a daily basis. We know gratitude is important but we don’t act on it.
We don’t practice daily gratitude even though we know it’s important.
* INTERACTIVE EXPERIMENT TIME! *
Let’s try one more quick experiment.
This one requires courage though. 80% of you won’t actually do this. Will you be in the courageous 20%?
Here’s the experiment:
Find someone near you (or call someone) and tell them why you are grateful for them.
Are you grateful for their love and support? For how they’ve shaped you? Or are they a stranger and you’re just grateful for their presence?
Try this now. Be courageous! You’ll learn something.
How do you feel about that person right now? How do you think they feel about you?
When I do this, I immediately feel more connected to the other person.
Did you notice that too?
This is a well-known and fairly obvious effect of gratitude. Sharing gratitude with another person brings you closer together.
One reason for this is known as the Ben Franklin Effect (you can read why it’s attributed to him here). When you share gratitude openly with other people, you begin to like them more. This is because your mind rationalizes your actions. Your action made you vulnerable so your mind justifies the action by believing: “I would only be this vulnerable with someone I trust.” This belief brings you closer together.
This is a clue for our second goal.
Most of us work with other people. We want those working relationships to be productive, positive, and prosperous. We want to work with people we can call our friends. Or, even better, our family. We want to care about them, and we want them to care about us. Wouldn’t that make work more joyful?
Why choose to not love your partners when you could experience more joy (and prosperity!) by choosing to love them?
However, the work environment isn’t structured to optimize for both high-performance and love. So even though we know we’d rather love the people we work with, we don’t take regular actions to make that happen.
We don’t choose to love the people we work with as much as we should.
What is Gratefulness Therapy?
At Dry Farm Wines, we experiment with group morning routines. Of everything we’ve tried, Gratefulness Therapy has been our most transformative practice, and it’s very simple.
At 10am each morning, we gather together. With lights off, eyes closed, and minds quiet, we go around the room and say what we’re each grateful for.
“I’m always grateful for a new morning,” says Tony. “I’m grateful for the smiling faces I see each day when I walk in the office. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m given. I’m grateful for the sun as it shines its powerful light down on me.”
Tony is 21 years old. When I first met him, he was quiet and reserved. He would walk into the office, nod quickly, and walk straight to the warehouse to start packing boxes.
When we started practicing morning gratitude, that changed.
“I’m grateful for all the hugs I get when I walk into the office each morning. I’m grateful to feel like I belong. For all this, I am grateful.” Tony finishes and the room, though silent, is full of love.
“Oh, and I’m grateful for the herb butter I made last night. It was fire!” (For those of us who aren’t in-the-know, “fire” is now an adjective that twenty-year-olds say…)
Ramzy goes next. “I’m feeling grateful for family today. I’m grateful for my family back home — my sisters, my parents, all my closest friends — and grateful for my family here. All of you make me a better person each day. I know that everyone here loves me like family, and I love each of you back just as strongly.”
Rosetta: “I’m grateful for the challenges we face together, and I’m grateful we take the time to step back and appreciate these challenges.”
Juan: “I’m grateful for fishing last night. I’m grateful for the opportunity to unwind, relax, and just sit outside in nature. It’s like a meditation for me. I enjoy every moment I spend there. I’m grateful for that time alone.”
Jason: “Juan, I’m grateful for your reliability. Tony, for your passion. Rosetta, for your support. Todd, for your wisdom. Ramzy, for your curiosity…”
Everyone’s eyes are closed, soaking in the sensations of gratitude as if they were warm rays of light from the sun.
How has Gratefulness Therapy impacted our team?
- It has brought us closer together. It’s the Ben Franklin Effect in a larger group. By sharing gratitude with the group and by listening to everyone else share theirs, we feel more connected to each other.
- It encourages everyone to be more vulnerable. Authenticity and vulnerability are core values of our company. By giving each person the space to share personal feelings, the practice encourages vulnerability.
- It slows us down. With so much going on (we’re a fast-growth startup with more work than our small team could possibly handle each day!), the morning could easily start in a chaotic sprint. This practice starts our day with calm presence.
How has Gratefulness Therapy impacted me?
- It’s made me a more positive person. At first, gratitude was isolated to this morning ritual. But through consistent practice, it began to overflow into other parts of my day. I now seek and find moments of gratitude throughout the day. I’ve become conditioned to think more positively.
“This sounds too woo-woo”
A few of you are certainly thinking this sounds like woo-woo hippy-talk. Should we also all hold hands, chant mantras, open our chakras, and pass light energy to each other?!
Gratitude is a well-researched practice. Studies show strong associations between gratitude and overall well-being. Here are just a few examples:
- A study looked at gratitude between couples and found that couples who expressed more gratitude for their partner felt more positive about the relationship and felt more comfortable discussing challenges.
- A study at the University of Miami had participants write a few sentences each day. The group who wrote about gratitude felt happier, more optimistic, and had fewer visits to a doctor.
- A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that participants who wrote letters of gratitude experienced huge increases in happiness.
- A study published in Emotion found that thanking a new acquaintance made it more likely that the relationship would become a long-term one.
- A study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology showed that practicing gratitude improved self-esteem, which improved performance and collaboration.
“We don’t have time for this.”
We have work to do!! We don’t have time for this each morning.
I felt this way too at first.
Let’s assume the practice takes 30 minutes each day (if it were just gratefulness it would be shorter, but we also meditate and visualize team goals during this time as well). If 8 people participate, that’s a collective 240 minutes each day and 1200 minutes (20 hours) each week. If we average the hourly value of each person at $30, then the cost of this practice is $600/week. That’s a real investment. That’s over $30k per year.
Here’s the return:
Everyone’s happiness increases.
Everyone feels more connected, more loved, and more aligned.
Everyone feels more comfortable being vulnerable with each other.
Everyone feels more positive and optimistic.
Everyone enjoys their time together more.
Everyone enjoys being at the office more.
What’s the price of that?
The emotional and spiritual return on investment is enormous. That creates a substantial increase in productivity.
If you don’t think you have time for Gratefulness Therapy, that’s a sign you really need to try it. Once you start, you’ll realize you don’t have the time to not do it.
What if we’re not all together?
While Gratefulness Therapy is most effective when practiced in person, it can also be practiced on distributed teams. Bulletproof, for example, shares gratitude on their weekly team calls. Use calls or a gratitude Slack channel to implement a similar practice for your team.
Do this now.
Gratefulness Therapy is a simple practice that has the potential to boost the happiness and productivity of everyone on your team. Why not try it as a one week experiment to see if it’s as potent for you as it is for us?
Here’s what to do now
Send this article to your team so they can learn about Gratefulness Therapy.
Then schedule your first session for tomorrow. Here’s the process:
- In the morning, gather everyone together.
- Select one person to lead.
- Everyone closes their eyes and sits quietly in personal meditation for a few minutes.
- When ready, the leader begins: “If you’d like, put your hand over your heart. Feel the life that beats from there. [pause a moment]. I’m grateful for …” At first, you may find yourself searching through your memories for things to be grateful for. Eventually those things come to you more naturally. While your attention is in your head early in the practice, it eventually moves to your heart.
- When finished, the next person goes. Go around the circle, giving each person the time they need to express their gratitude and the emotional space to feel accepted. Notice the feeling of gratitude that washes over you as everyone else speaks. This feeling is a powerful cleanse against stress and negativity.
- After everyone finishes, the leader can hold a moment and let everyone experience that lingering feeling of gratitude that now fills the room. When ready, say “cheers” and everyone opens their eyes.
- Notice the calm. Notice the gentle smiles on each face. This is how a peaceful and productive day is supposed to begin.
I’m grateful for you!
Thank you for reading this. I’m grateful for your attention and your trust. Time is our most valuable resource and you just spent ten minutes of your day reading my words. That means the world to me. I’m grateful for Todd White and our entire Dry Farm Wines family for bringing this practice to my life, for their inspirational leadership, for our consistency in practice, and for the open acceptance when inviting new people to join us. I’m grateful now for the opportunity to pass this practice to you and your team. Cheers!