Life can be stressful; between managing your day-to-day, juggling work projects, and making time for yourself, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed with what’s on your plate.
If you feel like stress is starting to take over, then it may be time to take a step back and reassess your priorities. Making gratitude a regular part of your life can help.
A growing body of research suggests that expressing gratitude leads to greater life satisfaction and improved physical and psychological health. By reflecting on all of the things that bring you joy—and thanking the people who act as your support system—you’ll recognize exactly what and who gets you through the tough days.
You’ll also be able to better appreciate how different aspects of your life serve you, building healthier relationships with yourself, your work, and those around you.
In order to take advantage of all of the positive effects of gratitude, start by looking inward. How have you helped yourself grow as a person?
One simple way to integrate gratitude into your daily routine is to start a journal. Spend a few minutes each day writing down three affirmations, no matter how small you think they are. Maybe one day you’re proud of yourself for going to the gym after work, or you’ve started painting as a hobby; whatever you do that brings you joy or allows you to clear your mind, write it down!
Of course, it’s also important to remember that practicing gratitude does not require you to ignore or stifle negative emotions—allow yourself to sit with your feelings and reflect on the larger picture.
For every mishap that takes up space in your mind, challenge yourself to write down one positive outcome that came from it. Maybe you’re disappointed that you haven’t hit a career milestone that you’ve been working toward, but you can recognize that your alternate path gave you relevant work experience or taught you additional skills instead.
You’ll have your fair share of mistakes and disappointments (we all do!), but every experience has made you wiser and more resilient. Being grateful for what you’ve learned through these events can help you bounce back when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Be thankful in your personal life
Once you’ve started practicing self-gratitude, a natural next step will be to begin looking outside of yourself to those who have supported you throughout your life.
Maybe a parent is always there to lend a sympathetic ear, or one of your neighbors offers to watch your pets when you’re away from home. Once you reflect on how these small but thoughtful actions impact you, express gratitude in a more specific, intentional way. Consider writing your parent a letter to share that you value their support, or baking cookies for your neighbor to show your appreciation.
The practice of saying thank you to your community will also remind you that you have a support system willing and able to help in your time of need. Let them know how much they mean to you by focusing on intention and action.
Pro Tip: Having a community of people who share the same values as you makes it easier to recognize what you’re grateful for. Try volunteering or starting a new hobby to connect with others the next time you’re feeling stressed—taking a step back to do something you love may be just what you need.
Be mindful of professional demands
According to a 2022 report, workplace stress is the most common type of stress, affecting 44% of employees globally. For social-impact professionals, the lines between your personal and professional life may be even more blurred because of deep connections to your organization’s mission, or because you frequently engage in direct service.
But your work is not all stress, so taking a step back to reflect on why you chose your current field can reignite your passion.
If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, try updating your resume. Even if you aren’t job searching, the act of highlighting your big wins and achievements will remind you of everything you’ve accomplished in this role and help you plan for what’s next.
Even when you feel personally connected to your work, it’s important to set boundaries. Let colleagues know your working hours and pause notifications on Slack and email so you aren’t tempted to answer any after-hours questions. If you’re concerned about missing an urgent message, share your cell phone number with co-workers along with clear guidelines on when they can contact you.
Pro Tip: Read through your employer-sponsored benefits to see if you have access to wellness benefits like a discounted gym membership or meditation app, and always use your vacation days!
It also pays to be mindful of how your colleagues are feeling at work, particularly when you’re all working collaboratively. Make sure to regularly check in with teammates to ask about their capacity for tasks and encourage them to take breaks when needed. In meetings, allow everyone to share their perspective, not just those who regularly contribute or who are the loudest.
Express gratitude frequently and honestly
Gratitude is not only a practice that can help you cultivate greater personal life satisfaction and work-life balance; it also acts as a glue that solidifies relationships.
You can probably think of quite a few people who have helped you with a last-minute task or taken on additional responsibilities when you needed support. Instead of sending yet another “thank you” message on Slack or through email, schedule a lunch or coffee date with your biggest cheerleader.
If you’re on a team, don’t wait until the end-of-the-year review to thank others for their hard work. Make a habit of thanking people regularly for their time, attention, and effort.
Ask your manager to devote the beginning or end of a meeting to shouting out co-workers who went the extra mile that week or helped you with a project. If someone stayed late to make sure a task was finished by deadline, be genuine in your praise and clear about how they made an impact. Recognizing others for their contributions will build a culture of appreciation and ensure everyone feels supported at work.
Gratitude is a simple way to take stock of everything and everyone that makes your life more meaningful (and manageable). Start by verbalizing your appreciation for yourself and others, and soon you’ll notice the relationships in your personal and professional life grow.
Looking for ways to destress at home and at work? Check out our resources for practicing mindfulness.
I oversee the content and resources we share at Idealist to help organizations, prospective grad students, and job seekers make an impact in their personal and professional lives. In my spare time, I love to read, cook, and explore NYC's parks.