Gratitude in the Workplace Improves Employee Health

It turns out that making people feel valued goes a long way.

If you knew that expressing gratitude to a colleague would improve their life and yours, would you do it more often?

A new study by Portland State University researchers — business professor David Cadiz, psychology professor Cynthia Mohr, and Alicia Starkey, a recent Ph.D. graduate in psychology — together with Clemson State University professor Robert Sinclair, exhibits a positive relationship between expressed workplace gratitude, physical health and mental health.

The study, “Gratitude reception and physical health: Examining the mediating role of satisfaction with patient care in a sample of acute care nurses,” shows that being thanked more often at work predicted better sleep, fewer headaches and healthier eating, because it improved nurses’ work satisfaction.

Improving Self-Care in a Stressful Work Environment

The study involved a group of Oregon nurses, a profession that has a particularly high rate of burnout. Cadiz discusses the findings and how applying the research can have a significant impact on quality of life and job retention by preventing stress-related illnesses and disease.

“Nurses tend to have a thankless job. It’s very physical, and they’re often being screamed at by patients who are at their lowest. When nurses receive gratitude, it boosts them,” Cadiz explains.

“This type of study helps us understand how to keep nurses in the workforce in a healthy way. Nurses strongly align their profession with their identity and often look out for patients more than themselves. The gratitude matches up with their identity, gives them satisfaction in a job well done and ultimately increases self-care.”

Many people inherently connect their identity to their job and feelings of appreciation within their roles. Employers who understand and react to this can create positive social and economic change.

Gratitude is Good Business

From an organizational, policy and leadership perspective, Cadiz says that employers should create formal or informal opportunities for people to express gratitude. Including gratitude in a business plan is an essential step that many business leaders miss, and that omission can have financial consequences.

“Employees that receive positive feedback are healthier, and that can impact the bottom line,” adds Cadiz. “Preventing headaches and other stress-related symptoms means fewer sick days, and, in this case, cuts down the cost of replacement nurses and overtime pay.”

These small changes can have a dramatic fiscal impact over time, which can result in more staff, better pay rates and increased benefits.

The big takeaway — express gratitude when you see someone doing a good job. A positive feedback loop impacts you and those around you, and can ultimately shape a healthier and happier community.

Research Into Optimal Sleep Positions

Apparently sleeping on one’s back is supposedly most beneficial to health, according to this research.

Sometimes we wake up groggy even though we’ve gone to bed on time and had a solid eight hours of sleep.

Experts say it could be down to your sleeping position – sleeping on your back is supposedly the best position, but ultimately, comfort is key.

There’s no longer any doubt that sleep is incredibly important. But it’s not just about getting enough sleep, it’s also about trying to stick to a sleep schedule that is in tune with your body clock, or circadian rhythm.

If people are out of sync, they can wake up feeling groggy, and find it difficult to focus the next day. But even when you think you’ve done everything right – you went to bed on time and got a good eight hours of sleep – you may still wake up tired and irritable.

According to sleep experts, this could be because of the way you’re sleeping.

Shelby Harris, a sleep medicine expert and a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine told Popular Science that if your sleeping position isn’t working for you, there are things you can do to change it.

Most people sleep on their sides, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but this position can cause shoulder and hip pain. Also, sleeping on your right side may even aggravate heartburn, some research found.

The theory is that a muscle in your esophagus that keeps acid in your stomach and out of your throat is loosened by the position, so some acid creeps up and causes a burning sensation. If you sleep on your left side, this muscle keeps the gap shut.

Harris said you should try sleeping on your left side if you get heartburn. Also, you should buy pillows that are thick enough to support your head, and tuck a pillow under your knees to support your lower back.

The absolute worst sleeping position, Harris said, is lying on your stomach. Only 7 percent of people do this, but it puts pressure on your entire body. You’re likely to wake up with numbness and tingling, and it can increase the chance of muscle and joint pain.

To make it easier on your body, Harris said you can use a flatter pillow to reduce neck strain.

The best position is sleeping on your back, which only 8 percent of people do. It’s the best position for reducing aches and pain, and it doesn’t cause heartburn because your head is elevated above your chest.

Of course, lying on your back increases the risk of snoring. If you’re prone to sleep apnea, it might not be the position for you, although there are exercises you can try to reduce snoring.

If you’d like to change your style, Harris said you can put pillows on both sides of your body, and one under your knees. This should stop you moving around too much.

If this doesn’t work, you can sew a tennis ball into the lining of your shirt, so the discomfort makes you flip back over if you try and turn.

“Although it is commonly recommended that sleeping on your back is the best position to sleep in, comfort is key,” Harris said. “If you’re in pain or uncomfortable from your sleep position, it can definitely impact your sleep quality.”

So if you find you’re often waking up groggy, and you’re not sure why, try changing your sleeping position.

New Research into Sleep’s Benefits to Memory

The research says that adequate sleep is helpful for using what’s learned from memories more efficiently.

Researchers at the University of York have shed new light on sleep’s vital role in helping us make the most of our memory.

Sleep, they show, helps us to use our memory in the most flexible and adaptable manner possible by strengthening new and old versions of the same memory to similar extents.

The researchers also demonstrate that when a memory is retrieved — when we remember something — it is updated with new information present at the time of remembering. The brain appears not to ‘overwrite’ the old version of the memory, but instead generates and stores multiple (new and old) versions of the same experience.

The results of the research, carried out at York’s Sleep, Language and Memory (SLAM) Laboratory, are presented in the journal Cortex today.

Lead researcher Dr Scott Cairney of York’s Department of Psychology said: “Previous studies have shown sleep’s importance for memory. Our research takes this a step further by demonstrating that sleep strengthens both old and new versions of an experience, helping us to use our memories adaptively.

“In this way, sleep is allowing us to use our memory in the most efficient way possible, enabling us to update our knowledge of the world and to adapt our memories for future experiences.”

[…]

Corresponding author Professor Gareth Gaskell of York’s Department of Psychology said: “Our study reveals that sleep has a protective effect on memory and facilitates the adaptive updating of memories.

“For the sleep group, we found that sleep strengthened both their memory of the original location as well as the new location. In this way, we were able to demonstrate that sleep benefits all the multiple representations of the same experience in our brain.”

The researchers point out that although this process helps us by allowing our memories to adapt to changes in the world around us, it can also hinder us by incorporating incorrect information into our memory stores.