Beyond Gratitude

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It’s November and here in the US, that means Thanksgiving. A time when we give thanks for all that we have and all who we know and love. It’s a time of gathering of family, sharing of food, and recollecting upon all we have to be grateful for.

And though we are grateful, loving, and caring this month, we often take all those people and things for granted all the other months of the year. Think how fulfilling and rich our lives could be if we took just a couple of minutes throughout the year to step back, reflect, and enjoy the bounty we have in our family, friends, talents, and treasure.

A little gratitude goes a long way.

But how do we do it and does it really make a difference in our lives? Yes, it does. And I’ll show you how.

First of all, what is gratitude?

Gratitude is the thankful appreciation we have for the goodness in our lives.

That sounds delightful, and I can tell you I am grateful for the goodness in my life. And I’m sure you are grateful for all the wonderful goodness you have in your life too. And you probably know that having an attitude of gratitude is a beautiful way to increase levels of happiness and fulfillment.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “Ok, Mr. Shortcut Man, I am not about to get out my dusty old gratitude journal I bought ten years ago and still has 73 empty pages.”

No worries, dear reader. I’m not that guy. I don’t even have a gratitude journal. I’ve tried. It’s just not my thing.

And as you know, I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I researched some studies to see if there was any scientific evidence that might prove that engaging in an attitude of gratitude did actually benefit our health and well-being in any way.

Well, let me tell you…I’ve learned some things. So let me share with you what I’ve found.

Gratitude does indeed help you enjoy greater happiness and fuel more positive emotions. It awakens your awareness to relish good experiences, and it prepares you to better manage adversity. That’s because even when things are not going your way, you can recall that most of the time things are pretty good, and that helps you temper the tougher times so you can focus on the future.

Not only that, but invoking a mindset of gratitude also proves to enhance your relationships.

You know why? Because nobody likes to be around a grumpy bastard!

When you live in a sense of gratitude and focus more on the good you see in life, you bring an air of optimism and positivity to any situation or conversation. Turns out, people tend to like that stuff.

That’s all fine and well, but where’s the science, bro?

Ok, ok, ok. Here we go.

A few years ago, some smart psychologists wanted to put their theories to the test, so they did a couple of studies to see if people did actually attain any benefit from being grateful.

So these two guys, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, over the course of three studies asked college students and adults to keep a journal for ten weeks. (OMG, here he goes with the journal thing again. I know, please, bear with me.) So for ten weeks, students and adults were broken up into three groups to do one of the following activities:

  1. Count their blessings
  2. Count their burdens
  3. Keep a running log of all the things that happened to them during the two weeks

Well, you probably know what I’m about to tell you. So yes, the group that counted their blessings reported feeling more optimistic, happier, and felt better about their lives. Interestingly, they also tended to exercise more and have little to no symptoms of any type of illness and had fewer visits to a physician.

It sounds crazy, but just thinking about the good in your life, actually promotes a good life. It’s like your brain is buying what it’s selling. And that’s because it is. We are totally susceptible to attractive stimuli.

For instance, if we feel grateful for having good health, we want to confirm that statement and make sure we don’t mess it up. So what do we do? We exercise more so we keep our form and physique.

And we have real issues with risk aversion. So, if we acknowledge that we have healthy habits, we are going to do what it takes so those things don’t go away. So we workout to preserve our current state, because the loss would be too hard to handle.

So, really what we’re talking about is a double-edge sword at work here. One side is the carrot guiding us to better health and the other side is the stick goading us to not mess things up.

Ok, so maybe you’re saying, “Whatever, that is just a study done on college students keeping a journal. What about the real world?”

Well, I’ve got news for you. Gratitude works on others as well. Let me tell you about a study that was done in the workplace.

Adam Grant and Francesca Gino conducted a study where they setup two workplace situations where two groups were asked to do some fundraising. In one group, the manager would greet the employees as they arrived and they got to work. In the other group, the manager would greet the employees and tell them, “I am grateful for your hard work and we sincerely appreciate your contributions.”

And as you can guess, the group with the thankful boss performed at a higher rate. How much was the productivity gain? 50%! These folks who has only been told “thank you” for coming in to work actually produced one and a half times the calls as the control group who were not thanked for their work.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like it might be worth it to say thank you once in a while.

The productivity numbers bear it out. Say what you will about the softer side of management, but this soft skill has the potential to deliver some cold hard cash.

So, how will you think about the goodness in your life? How will you use it cultivate a greater sense of happiness and fulfillment? And how will you translate your gratitude towards the important people in your life?

Every day will not be filled with rainbows and butterflies, but we all know what those are because we’ve experienced them before. Gratitude is reminding ourselves that good things are all around us, and that changes the way we live and the way we lead.

Your Mindful Moment:

Gratitude is the great amplifier of joy and success!

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