Tip your waitstaff and thank your nurses.
Being thanked more frequently at work can ultimately benefit physical health, according to a recent study involving acute-care nurses in Oregon. Receiving expressions of gratitude improved these nurses’ satisfaction with their work, and in turn predicted sounder sleep, more attempts to eat healthy and even fewer headaches.
This latest study demonstrating the perks of gratitude, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Positive Psychology, asked 146 registered nurses, a majority of whom were female and white, to fill out surveys about their sleep, physical health, reception of expressions of gratitude, and evaluations of their work-related tasks every week for 12 weeks.
“In general, people talk about how nursing is a thankless job,” lead study author Alicia Starkey, a doctoral candidate in Portland State University’s psychology department, told MarketWatch. “They experience a lot of interpersonal conflict, both with their patients and also with their coworkers (and) physicians.”
Research suggests that gratitude and introducing a process where people are thanked for their hard work can help health-care workers reduce burnout, Starkey and her co-authors noted. The present research may also extend beyond health-care to other fields like the military or civil service, she added.
“When we receive gratitude or people acknowledge us for a job well done, we might feel more satisfied with the work we do day-to-day — and that might relate to us sleeping better at night and self-care behaviors,” Starkey said. It could also lead to fewer sick days, less fatigue and fewer patient-safety concerns.
The study can be instructive to health-care employers aiming to improve nurses’ well-being, Starkey said, suggesting organizations might consider formal ways of expressing gratitude — like employee-appreciation programs — and encourage gratitude on an interpersonal level, like through supportive supervisor behavior.
About 8% of registered nurses say that gratitude and relationships with patients are the most rewarding aspect of their jobs, according to Medscape’s latest Nurse Career Satisfaction Report, while helping people and making a difference in their lives topped the list at 40%.
A growing body of research also touts the benefits of expressing gratitude. Showing gratitude can make people happier and protect against stress, studies show; it may even help combat depression. And still-emerging research on the link between gratitude and physical health suggests that people who give thanks could have better heart health and better sleep.
In related research, workers who get recognition are more likely to be engaged at work and less likely to quit, according to a 2015 report by IBM’s IBM, +0.46% Smarter Workforce Institute. Workers whose managers focus on their positive characteristics are far more engaged at work, Gallup polling has found.
Yet many may still underestimate the positive impact of gratitude: A 2018 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people tend to undervalue the potential benefits of writing a letter of gratitude and overestimate how awkward it might make them feel.
Many workers do acknowledge its potential: More than half of employees say they’d stick around longer if their boss showed more appreciation, according to a 2013 Glassdoor survey. And 81% said they were motivated to work harder when the boss showed appreciation.