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Quickly shift the mood at work or home: The power of gratitude


28 February 2023

As humans, we are wired to focus our thoughts on the negative. It has been said that roughly 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. This type of thinking is so prevalent that there is a scientific term for it the negativity bias. Our negativity bias is part of our biology - it helps to keep us and those around us safe. Worrying about the potential storm when we travel, the impending recession that could impact business, what our teenage children might be doing when out with their friends -- all these things are important to pay attention to so we can plan for what's to come.

The challenge is, when we focus mainly on our negative thoughts, it can get in the way of creativity, innovation, and joy that many of us desire in our work and home lives. For many of us, simply because we're human, we need to be intentional and practice focusing on more positive thoughts. One way of doing that is by practicing gratitude.

Team Gratitude

Many teams we work with are struggling with the mood of their team. Leaders say their people aren't open to new ideas and comment "we've tried that before" or "that won't work, we don't have the resources". Often the team is stuck in the blame game "it's not my fault, corporate won't let us" or "Jessie didn't do their job so I can't do anything about it". Sometimes the culture has become triangulation central where everyone is talking about each other indirectly.

This is all a form of our negativity bias in action and creates the exact opposite environment from one that will support creativity and innovation. In fact, scientific evidence suggests that a positive team mood and emotion are critical for creativity, innovation, and engagement. 

So how can a gratitude practice help your team?

One way to practice gratitude is through an acknowledgment practice. To acknowledge means to express gratitude for or to take notice of. 

Sounds simple, right? There are lots of ways to express gratitude or take notice of your team members on an individual level. 

What about when a whole team needs a shift in their mood?

We find that a team acknowledgment practice is one of the quickest and most effective ways to immediately shift the mood of a team.

A team acknowledgment practice can simply mean taking the time to express what you appreciate about each other. Sounds simple, but we often find that teams are often uncomfortable doing this at first. However, as soon as they start talking, the mood shifts instantly and they often want to keep talking. The positive effects on the mood of the team have a tremendous positive impact on how people work together and what they are able to accomplish. For specific examples of how to implement acknowledgment practices, download our gratitude guide.


Family Gratitude

An acknowledgment practice can also work at home. We have used the same practice during family vacations when everyone is grumpy and complaining or feeling unappreciated. We have done it in groups aged 10 - 80 years and it quickly shifts the mood for the rest of the trip.

As in the work team, our family members often feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but quickly shift as soon as the conversation starts. We have heard them say "I didn't know you appreciated that about me" or "that felt really good. I just thought everyone was annoyed with me all the time. No one has said anything nice to me in a long time."

At home, we use a version of the acknowledgment practice. When our young son was exhibiting challenging behaviors, swearing, throwing things, etc. and we felt like everything we said to him was negative "don't throw that, don't swear, what are you doing?" The family mood was negative and we were all frustrated. We needed to find a way to shift our focus and his. 

We started putting post-it notes on the fridge with things we appreciated each day about our son, and eventually, each other. Simple things like: "I appreciate how you... "I... As parents, our mood shifted instantly and our son gradually started adding his own notes. It helped all of us focus on what we cared most about.

Other Resources

Resources for more on the science of gratitude and how to cultivate it can be found at:

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