Why being grateful is good for you
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We were all taught to say ‘thank you’ as kids. That was right up there in the book of good manners, along with saying ‘please’ and learning not to strip your clothes off in public. As adults, we still say ‘please’ and ‘thank’ you most of the time. As for taking your clothes off in public, hopefully, you’re being more selective about that these days.
When you thank people, though, how often do you stop and consider what you are thanking them for? Are you just saying it automatically, such as when someone passes you the salt at the table, or are you deliberately expressing your gratitude? Have you ever stopped to consider just what gratitude really means?
Dr Robert Emmons is one of the world’s leading experts on the nature of gratitude. He has conducted in-depth research on the benefits of gratitude and written a number of books on how to incorporate an attitude of gratefulness into your life. In his article Why Gratitude Is Good, for Greater Good Magazine, he stated:
“Gratitude is a social emotion. I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.”
Emmons believes that gratefulness has two parts to it. Firstly, we need to acknowledge that there is goodness in the world around us and that we have benefited from this goodness in some way. Then we need to look for the sources of this goodness and acknowledge that it comes from somewhere outside of us. While we might take pride in our own achievements, this is different to being grateful for the benefits we have received from others.
Being grateful for the good things in life does not mean that we should ignore anything negative. Instead, it means paying attention to the little things that help us that we might otherwise take for granted. For example, when you thank a service station attendant when you pay for petrol, do you think about the work they do to keep the store clean? Do you appreciate the fact that you’ve got access to petrol and a car to get you around? Is this something you value? As Emmons also said:
“Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.”
Benefits of having an ‘attitude of gratitude’
When you start to reflect on the things you are grateful for, your thoughts trigger flow-on emotional and physical benefits, too. The things we are grateful for are often things that make us happy, so when we think about them, the positive memories and emotions come back to us, too. This process then triggers the release of ‘positive’ hormones in the brain like serotonin and dopamine which have numerous physical and social benefits such as:
Lower stress levels
Reduced feelings of isolation
Strengthened immune responses
Better sleep quality
More motivation and energy
Increased feelings of self-worth
More compassion for others
Also, when you focus on things you are grateful for, it’s impossible to focus on negative thoughts at the same time, so they have less power over you.
World champion tri-athlete, Siri Lindley deliberately begins each day in a state of gratitude. In her podcast interview on The Mentor List, she said that this reminds her not about what’s missing but about what’s there and celebrating that. This helps her to ward off any fear and set her focus and energy on the important things in life.
Siri said this practice allows her to start the day in a positive frame of mind and focus on what she is going to do that day to make a difference in other people’s lives.
3 ways to build your gratitude skills
Keep a daily gratitude journal. This could be as simple as listing 3 things you are grateful for in a notebook each morning.
Notice the people around you and appreciate what they do.
Stop your negative thoughts in their tracks. Vow not to complain, gossip or criticise for a week and notice any differences in your mood.
Building a culture of gratitude at work
“Evidence suggests that gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments where employees actually want to come to work and don’t feel like cogs in a machine.”
(From Kira Newman’s article for Greater Good Magazine, How Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace.)
Regardless of if you are the boss or the newest employee, everyone can help create a culture of gratitude at work.
Pay genuine compliments and remember to thank people.
Value everyone for their differences and strengths.
Treat everyone with respect.
Above all, show that you care for each person’s health and wellbeing, not just for their productivity and performance.
When we learn to truly appreciate the world around us, it becomes harder to stay stuck in a cycle of negativity and despair. What’s more, gratitude is a contagious attitude. The more you practice it, the more you share it with others.
Call to action…
Siri Lindley is a former World Champion and Hall of Fame triathlete. She is a high-performance coach in both triathlon and life.
In her interview on The Mentor List, Siri shared how she harnessed the power of gratitude to help her progress from being extremely shy and anxious to becoming a World Champion triathlete in just a few years.
As a speaker and author, Siri carries a deep and profound message that has evolved from her experience of self-discovery. Her story is about finding strength through struggle and learning to live life from a place of love, NOT fear. Siri’s story relates beautifully to business, family and all aspects of life. Tune in today to hear more.
Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au
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