It’s no secret that an optimistic outlook, fueled by a healthy dose of gratitude, can directly contribute to happiness and success. But—according to studies focused on two types of optimism, realistic and idealistic—there may be a catch. These studies demonstrate that realistic optimists are generally healthier and more successful in work and life than their idealistic counterparts. Realists see a half-filled glass as half-full, not half-empty, and are authentically grateful for what’s there. Idealists see a half-filled glass as more than half-full or even overflowing, forcing an unrealistic or self-enhanced perspective.
Striking the right optimistic mindset can take some practice, as we tend to either over or undershoot our target. The good news is, you can help employees to cultivate healthy and realistic optimism through grounded, mindful, strategic gratitude exercises.
One powerful exercise employees can easily adopt is to keep a gratitude journal, which researchers have found can improve a person’s overall outlook and wellbeing. One such study examined the differences between a group of adults who kept a weekly gratitude journal and those who did not. Those who wrote down what they were grateful for demonstrated a more generally optimistic outlook, an improvement in exercise routines, and a decrease in physical aches and pains compared to those who didn’t keep a journal.
Researchers suggest that showing gratitude works in what they called a virtuous cycle: the more you’re grateful for, the better you think and feel, and, subsequently, you have even more to be grateful for.
Here are a couple of helpful tips for employees who might want to try gratitude journaling:
- Studies show that weekly (or even bi-weekly) entries are more helpful than daily ones.
- And, go for quality rather than quantity. Logging fewer, realistically meaningful events has shown a greater benefit to positive thinking than an equal or longer list of superficial or overblown thanks.