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All About You: Be grateful

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Stop at a grocery store today, and you’ll find a greater variety of food, hygiene products, and medical and health aids to choose from than the wealthiest kings and queens had during most of human history. Your home, too, offers more comfort and entertainment options than could have been imagined a couple of centuries ago.

The list goes on. Consider travel, medical care, communication, education and, of course, safety. It’s amazing how many facets of modern life have improved for “developed and developing” societies. Sadly, a vast number of people still don’t have access to these advances. Millions of people don’t have enough food, housing and clean water to live decent lives.

You and I do. Still, none of this improved living guarantees we’ll enjoy our days or generally be happy. Many social scientists and pollsters have found that conditions such as chronic depression and anxiety are on the rise.

In the book “The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse,” Gregg Easterbrook, Ph.D., writes:

“Far from feeling better about their lives, many are feeling worse. Throughout the United States and the European Union, incidence of clinical melancholy has been rising in eerie synchronization with rising prosperity. Adjusting for population growth, ‘unipolar’ depression, the condition in which a person feels blue, is today ten times as prevalent as it was half a century ago.”

I certainly don’t have all the answers on how to avoid feeling down in our high-tech “modern” world, but I do know one way to boost your happiness: Practice being grateful. No matter what is going on in your life, you have an endless list of reasons to be grateful. But like any skill, regular practice is needed to become adept at it. Here are a few ways to practice being grateful:

Have a daily ‘gratitude trigger’

For me, my daily gratitude trigger is taking a shower in the morning. I think about how wonderful it is to be able to have clean water along with all the other items, such as soap and shampoo, at my disposal. This simple practice always lifts my spirits even when I don’t feel well. It also helps me feel grateful for other aspects of my life throughout the day.

There are myriad activities you can use as your daily gratitude trigger. From the moment you wake up in the morning until you fall asleep at night, things are happening that you can focus on to strengthen your gratefulness.

Take an occasional ‘positive’ inventory

As safety and health professionals who deal with problems regularly and often don’t see any specific improvements resulting from our efforts, we can sometimes feel unappreciated – if not outright depressed – about our job.

During my “Attack Stress at Work” seminar, right after I finish a section on “why work can stress you out,” I go around the room and ask each person to tell me “one thing about your job that you are grateful for, besides the money.” I post each response on a flip chart. Common responses include “working on new projects,” “co-workers who are friends” and “my morning coffee in the break room.” By the time this exercise is over, the mood in the room is brighter and nearly everyone is smiling.

You can do the same thing yourself. On occasions, especially when you’re feeling down about work, make a mental list of the things you like and are grateful for. If you really want this tactic to work, write out the list and add to it now and again. Then, when you need a mental boost, read through it.

Focus on what matters most

A study conducted at the University of Illinois concluded that the people who were happiest and showed the least amount of depression had “strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them.” The “stuff” we have matters, but not nearly as much as the people in our lives. Remembering to be grateful for relationships – even brief ones such as a conversation with someone who waits on you at a store – is a powerful way to increase your happiness.

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Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.

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