How You Can Benefit from the Practice of Gratitude
Each person has a natural communication style.
Understanding yours can and will impact how effective you are when dealing with friends, co-workers and clients.
Tired of Fixating on Bad News, Global Warming, or Wild Politics?
It’s a wild world out there, and with the bad news headlines front and center, it’s pretty easy to dwell on the negative. There’s good reason to be fearful, negative and stressed…and yet, there is overwhelming evidence that one simple practice can help us to deal with these issues on a personal level, and more importantly to increase happiness - the practice of gratitude.
I know…you’re too busy. But think again. The benefits of cultivating an attitude of gratitude are very real and can be enjoyed with some simple choices to build it into your life in simple ways. In its simplest form, gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging all that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything in it were a miracle, and being consciously aware of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the richness that is already present.
I have read about 40 studies on gratefulness, and the results are pretty impressive. By practicing gratefulness, here are just some of the benefits you can expect:
- Better and more sleep, feeling more refreshed when you do wake
- Less depressed
- Feel more connected to others
- Expressing gratitude increases goodwill toward others
- Greater overall life satisfaction
- Higher levels of optimism
- More feelings of control in your life
- Expressing your gratitude increases happiness by 4 – 19%. The impact is even greater if you are in a particularly rough place in your life – expect increases in happiness of up to 25%
- Profound and positive effects on our health - People who kept a weekly log of things they were grateful had fewer health complaints, and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more
- Overall better mood
- Increase in cognitive functions like memory and problem solving
- Higher marriage survival rates (Try the 5:1 Ratio – 5 positives for every negative in a relationship)
- Schools report lower incidences of violence and misconduct and stronger academic performance
David Steindl-Rast shared this…“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity and are willing to share.”
Grateful is not a “once in a while” thing, but rather a choice to live your life in a certain way. It’s about graceful living every day.
So enough about why…HOW do you fit it into your life? Try these three simple practices for 7 days – then check in. Pay attention to how you feel, and how others are responding to you. Observe how you handle people and situations. My guess is that you will see a difference…so then build on that. If you don’t notice anything then go back to being grumpy and wishing for more…see the difference then.
Here’s the gratitude makeover…
- Observe – When we rush through life, we don’t appreciate the incredible things that are around us – the sights, the smells, the laughter, the miracles. Stop and look around for 30-seconds at a time during the day. Instead of just rushing to the meeting a few minutes late – build in some white space so that you can walk to the meeting and notice the incredible architecture in the buildings, or look at the people on the way, say hello to someone who holds the door for you. Notice the little things that make your world a better place. Just deliberately observe for 30 seconds at a time, at least five times a day.
- Accept / Ask – Rather than getting upset about the money you don’t have, the resources that are stretched, or the house that is too small, flip it around. Accept that it is what it is. Ask what can you do with the money or resources that you do have. Embrace what is, rather than fixate on what isn’t.
- Act – Share with at least one person every day something that you appreciate about them. Make it genuine and meaningful to them and to you. Adopt the 5:1 Ratio – Say / Do five positive things for every one. And then keep a journal – I find that starting my day with 3 positive things helps me to stay focused on being grateful – starting with what I think when I look in the mirror in the morning. Choose gratitude.
Here’s a great video to get you started - An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness. Just watching this video will give you a kick start.
Gratitude and thankfulness just feels good. It’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you, so what are you waiting for? Share your results with us…we would love to share the good stuff as you are leading your grateful life.
Author: Tammy Sweeney, VP Program Development, Learn2 & CEO, Women in Leadership and Business (WILB) Conference