Gratitude is not only good for the person who is thanked. Gratitude is not just something that belongs to »more spiritual people.«
Gratitude is an emotional state and an attitude towards yourself and the world around you.
Gratitude is all about being aware of and thankful for people, services, products, life, or yourself. More good feelings leave less room for the toxic ones.
Robert Emmons, the world’s one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude, thinks of gratitude as fertiliser for the mind, spreading connections and improving its function in nearly every realm of experience.
“[Gratitude] has been conceptualized as an emotion, a virtue, a moral sentiment, a motive, a coping response, a skill, and an attitude. It is all of these and more. Minimally, gratitude is an emotional response to a gift. It is the appreciation felt after one has been the beneficiary of an altruistic act” (Emmons & Crumpler).
A great amount of scientific research tells us that gratitude can change our lives and produce life satisfaction. Research has shown that gratitude can improve general well being, health, happiness, increase resilience, strengthen social relationships, increases feelings of security and connectedness, and reduce stress and depression.
In general, much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. Gratitude helps to reverse our perspective of priorities to start to acknowledge and appreciate the people, things, experiences, our own qualities and abilities we do have – instead of taking them for granted.
Cultivating gratitude takes time and patience, but it enables us to take a step back and view life from its entirety rather than becoming muddy with the noise and chaos that can so easily blind us with social expectations of constant having and being »even more. «
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for. – Zig Ziglar
How gratitude can help you through hard times
Gratitude is easy when life is good – when you are in love, or you get a promotion, or you get arise, or you get a compliment from your boss, you get a newborn…
But it’s a lot tougher to find something to be grateful for when you feel powerless, anxious, lonely, frustrated, depressed, or convinced that life is unfair to you. When you struggle with mental, emotional, physical, or relationship challenges, it is difficult to feel positive emotions.
But it is precise during most challenging times that you are given the opportunity to discover who you really are and realize what matters to you. When adversity strikes, although it takes an effort, gratitude is a great coping strategy with hard times.
Being grateful is a choice. It’s a prevailing attitude to everything that is going on in your life. When there is too much of a focus on the negative, gratitude is a way to rewire your brain and refocus it from the things that » suck « to the feel-good ones.
Gratitude enables that amid the bad times, we don’t lose sight of the good. It is not rare that in good times you take your prosperity for granted. But in times of uncertainty, you might start to realize that everything you have, everything you have counted on, maybe was or could be taken away. Gratitude can open your eyes to everything else that also matters to you. And then it becomes much harder to take it for granted.
Gratitude helps you to reevaluate what is really important in life and realize that your positive emotions don’t depend only on the things that might be (temporary) taken away from you.
There are many stories of people who have experienced a positive change in their lives after struggling with hardship, a process called post-traumatic growth.
This type of growth is not a result of the experience of adversity, as it is a result of the way in which one chooses to perceive the situation and consequently respond to the experience. Gratitude is not about reliving the experience but rather to get a new perspective (new insights) on it. Gratitude provides a perspective from which you can view life in its entirety and not be solely overwhelmed by temporary circumstances.
When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate, when life is bitter, say thank you and grow. ~Author Unknown
The science of gratitude. How does gratitude change the brain?
UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center found that regularly expressing gratitude changes the molecular structure of your brain, keeps your gray matter functioning, which makes you healthier and happier.
When we are thinking of something that we are grateful for, then are activated the parts of the brain that include the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, and important neurochemicals are increased. When thinking shifts from negative to positive, there is a surging of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These all contribute to the feelings of security, empowerment, closeness, connection, and happiness that come with gratitude.
The benefits of gratitude might take time to kick in. The key is consistency.
The studies also show that the mental health benefits of gratitude doesn’t emerge immediately, but gradually accrue over time.
Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots”. says Rick Hanson
Rick Hanson has done plenty of work in this area. With the brain primed to notice the negatives, we need to not only teach it to tune into the positive, but also to hold those positives for long enough to have an effect. Our default position is to let the good slide off us fairly quickly, so we need to be deliberate about holding on to it for long enough to change the brain. Rick Hanson has found that holding (focusing on) an experience for 20 seconds is long enough to create positive structural changes in the brain. Gratitude gives space for the positive experience to expand, or for us to ‘re-experience’ it, rather than having us move quickly move on from it.
“Ask your brain to do algebra every day, and it gets better at algebra. Ask it to worry, and you will find more things to be anxious about. Ask your brain to give thanks, and it will get better at finding things to be grateful for. Not only does your brain find these things easier, but it actually refashions itself based on what you ask it to do. And the more you do it, the more rewards you’ll reap. ” says Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D
The power of gratitude in the workplace
Employee engagement, the drive for wanting to do well, and more stems largely from feeling acknowledged and appreciated.
According to research by the London School of Economics, performance-related pay often does not encourage people to work harder. Gratitude can actually be a better motivator than money. Managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.
Gallup’s study reveals the four basic needs, followers want their leaders to display:
TRUST: respect, integrity, and honesty
COMPASSION: caring, friendship, happiness and love
STABILITY: security, strength, support, and peace
HOPE: direction, faith, and guidance
Gratitude can be a very powerful and always at hand tool to meet these human needs. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognized for their efforts, and thank you is a cost-free way of showing appreciation. Expressing gratitude provides a respectful, honest, and meaningful recognition of an employee’s effort, which contributes to feelings of security, strengths, caring, and respect. Sincere gratitude is also powerful feedback, which is a great tool to give employees direction and guidance.
Similarly, according to an SHRM report, “respectful treatment of all employees,” was the number-one contributor to job satisfaction. And “trust between employees and senior management” was the second. These seemingly “soft” topics can have a hard return in engagement.
Especially during times as we are experiencing now, affected by uncertainty and unpredictability because of COVID-19, employees feel very worried and anxious, and therefore it’s even more crucial to find the way to fulfill human – employees needs. Very worried people are not productive employees. To be an effective leader during this time, you must remember that humans experience life of about 30% rationally and 70% emotionally. Cultivating gratitude has been shown to reduce stress hormones like cortisol by as much as 23 percent.
Expressing thanks to colleagues might feel awkward at the beginning, but because of its huge positive ripple effect, it is worth to start with and commit to it.
And do not forget, gratitude is not only good for the person who is thanked. Giving thanks is actually hugely beneficial to the person who is handing out the appreciation.
Gratitude is an important aspect to self-care
We often hear the statement that before we can love another, we first need to love ourselves. Gratitude helps us to recognize more of our own inner beauty, skills, talents, strengths, knowledge, achievements, and how we are able to use these for ourselves, to give to others and the world.
We get so busy and absorbed with daily tasks that we often don’t realize all we have completed, solved, and achieved. Gratitude approach helps you to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments each day, no matter how small or big they are. And it is not just about the accomplishments; it also helps you to acknowledge your talents, strengths, knowledge, skills that enabled you to achieve these accomplishments. Otherwise, there is a high chance that your unique abilities would stay overlooked or taken for granted.
Interior gratitude is a powerful tool to start acknowledging your strengths and talents and gradually refocus your attention from your weaknesses to your strengths. Being aware of your strengths and developing them further is a proven way to become more successful. This new learning will keep you motivated and feeling like you are making progress against the goals you set for yourself.
Especially when you feel stuck, pause, and take stock in all the good work you have done. Self-gratitude can build confidence and help you face any challenge when no else will.
Ways to cultivate gratitude
Gratitude isn’t just an emotion that we can somehow turn on or off. It’s an entire approach to life that requires intentionality or thoroughgoing internal change.
Research suggests that a variety of factors such as personality factors, cognitive factors, gender, and social factors (including religion, cultural influences, and parenting styles) may influence a person’s tendency to experience gratitude. Therefore, for some people, it comes quite naturally, while some people have to intentionally decide and commit to look for and appreciate the good.
Even though you might feel awkward at the beginning, it’s worth to do it anyway. It’s scientifically proven that if you are grateful for just five minutes a day, after three weeks, you start to feel considerably happier. Many times when we don’t see immediate results, we give up. Therefore, you just have to commit to DO it consistently without drops out.
There are plenty of ways to integrate gratitude into your life:
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thought about everything positive you’ve received or experienced each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings. You can pick a number, such as three to five things, that you will identify each day or week.
Write a thank-you note to other people expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of how they impact on your life. You can just write it for yourself, or you can send it or read it in person, depends how comfortable you feel with this.
Remembering the bad can help you to appreciate the good. Think of the worst times in your life when you felt hopeless, sad, frustrated, lonely, and then think of everything that helped you to conquer those bad times and acknowledge everything that is here with you today, compared to those times.
Pray. Religious people can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
That practicing gratitude can actually have a beneficial influence on your life, there are also two important aspects of how you do it.
It is essential that you FEEL the gratitude. Don’t just technically repeat things that you think you “should” be grateful for, but you don’t really feel that positive feeling of gratitude resonating inside you.
Secondly, don’t come from a place of lack, and say »at least I have this.« This implies that you are actually focusing on lack, instead of on prosperity that is already in your life.
The way it suits one’s best differs from person to person, therefore everyone has to find the most suitable form of practicing gratitude. Please remember, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
Make a game out of noticing good things each day, no matter how small or big they are.
Don’t forget that to thank yourself and others, as acknowledging the thoughts and efforts of people with gratitude only shows that you and people matter.