The United States is celebrating Thanksgiving. Historically, it is a cheerful and exciting kick-off to the holidays. However, this year has been full of complexity and challenges, and there are those of you reading this who are struggling with significant loss, perhaps personally and professionally.
It is important to acknowledge this and to recognize that, for many, life has been altered in a way that feels heavy and difficult. Tapping into the right resources to help provide support is key. And although we cannot possibly list every resource here that might be needed, if you are unsure as to where to turn, checking with a local county or state official’s office is a great start.
As we move forward, the practice of gratitude becomes even more important. It is not a replacement for loss, nor is this intended to dismiss confronting challenges. However, the art and science of gratitude has proven to be a life experience enhancer for many reasons, and I invite you to consider putting this to work for you.
Practicing gratitude has actually shown to be effective in many studies. In other words, research supports its positive effects.
Here are some key reasons you might want to begin a simple gratitude practice.
1. Elevate your mood and lower your stress.
The expression of gratitude is a perspective brightener. Researchers from Harvard, University of California Davis, and University of Pennsylvania have produced studies showing that people report elevated happiness as much as a month later by doing such things as keeping a gratitude journal, writing letters of appreciation, and jotting down positive memories.
The good feelings associated with performing these tasks also positively affect the hypothalamus, which controls basic bodily functions such as eating and sleeping, and dopamine, the “reward neurotransmitter.” And if you receive positive acknowledgment from someone else in this way, it operates on your brain in a similar way. This means better sleep habits, well-being, and health.
Imagine what this can do in the workplace!
2. Motivate those around you – and make the world a better place.
Integrating a practice of gratitude affects those around you. It is a great motivator, both at home and in the workplace.
A study performed by professors Grant and Gino on the merits of gratitude and its effects on motivating prosocial behavior emphasizes this point. Researchers divided participants into two groups and asked them to make fundraising calls to solicit alumni donations. One group followed the traditional method of making calls while another group was given a speech by the director of annual giving, who expressed gratitude for their efforts. The group who received the pep talk made 50% more fundraising calls than those who did not.
3. How do you begin? Here are a few tips.
Express gratitude daily.
Keep a journal and simply jot down three things for which you are thankful each morning. Over time, this has been shown to help redirect a person’s perspective in a more positive manner throughout the day. Write thank-you notes when you recognize your appreciation of others. Make a phone call to share your gratitude of others with them. Human beings need connection and acknowledgment more than ever before during these tumultuous times.
Celebrate small wins as well as large ones.
Look for the small nuggets of “good” and count your blessings. What do you take for granted each day that is really a luxury? Who do you appreciate for who they are – and not for what they do?
Seek out the unsung heroes.
There are many in our circles who, through their faithfulness and steady commitment, continue to make the world a better place. Note these. Let them know. Again, appreciation should not be limited to achievements, but to what they bring to the table in their character or demeanor.
Be genuine in your expressed appreciation.
If you are one who does not readily acknowledge the good things in life and other people, make sure that you are genuine in your expression when you do express appreciation. Others will not trust your efforts if you otherwise send signals of dismissal or unappreciation.
It’s the quality, not the quantity.
A client recently shared that she has a colleague who passes by her desk several times daily and each time he does, he says, “Good job!” However, when she stopped him the other day and asked him what he appreciated about her good work, he couldn’t answer her. Be sure that, when you are recognizing blessings or others, you are specific, so that this is meaningful to both you and them. Quality in this regard is everything. Otherwise, your message rings hollow.
Practicing gratitude just makes sense. It’s better for your health and outlook. It is contagious, inspiring, and motivating to those around you. And in times like these, when we cannot control many things we used to take for granted, we can serve as ripples in a pond, collectively making positive impact all around us.
© Patti Cotton and patticotton.com. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that attribution is made to Patti Cotton and patticotton.com, with links thereto.
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.