As the year 2020 is coming to an end, I’d like to invite you to join me in a short moment of gratitude for the gifts of this transformative year. I realize that it has been a terrible year for many individuals and businesses, including my own family and my own business. But at the same time, I think this year has shown us clearly all the things that we forgot to appreciate,
such as the ability to meet up with friends, the privilege of welcoming clients into our offices, or the luxury of going on vacation. It took a pandemic and two lockdowns to confront us with our complacency, to appreciate what we’ve taken for granted for so long, and to reflect on how we run our businesses and live our lives. Unexpectedly, the heartbreaking consequences of the pandemic have helped us to be grateful for everything we already have and for our amazing ability to recover, adapt, and grow. We were reminded that human tendency is to rise to any challenge, to reinvent and rebuild. This is something to be grateful for, isn’t it?
I’ve heard so many complaints about this year, and I have complained more than usual myself, I’ll be honest. As a coach, I understand the need to speak openly about negative emotions. However, at the unprecedented time like this, I also know that skills like mindfulness, gratitude, and self-compassion are more relevant than ever. That’s why I wanted to highlight the transformative power of gratitude today so that we have the tools and ability to practice gratitude for all the good things that came out of the pandemic experience, and beyond.
Understanding the Power of Gratitude
In the Buddhist tradition, gratitude is considered one of the High Values. In the Western tradition it is considered one of the highest forms of enlightenment and emotional maturity. Positive psychology considers gratitude to be the foundation of happiness, contentment and abundance. Recent scientific research confirms that gratitude is one of the most important soft skills and one of the biggest factors influencing happiness and general wellbeing, including (mental) health.
What is perhaps counterintuitive is that we usually think that the happiness and wellbeing will come from material things: a fancy car, a big house, a new job or a big pay rise. The problem is they simply don’t last. They become boring, old routine surprisingly quickly.
Scientists call this tendency “hedonic adaptation” and it puts a serious damper on happiness derived from material things.
But what works, and works really well, is gratitude.
Gratitude can do much more than simply increase your happiness. It can also help you feel more positive emotions, enjoy good experiences, and deal with adversity. It can decrease your perception of pain, reduce anxiety, resentment and even symptoms of depression. It can improve the quality of your sleep. It can increase your self-esteem and your professional performance. Scientific experiments have also shown that feelings of gratitude improve relationships, enhance feelings of support, increase prosocial behavior and improve the atmosphere and culture in the workplace.
Hopefully the above arguments are enough to get you interested enough to develop a daily gratitude habit. And let’s be grateful, because practicing gratitude is really simple: all it takes is a mindful moment to focus on things that you are thankful for.
Your gratitude routine, or gratitude intervention as psychologists call it, will be different from mine because gratitude practice is individual. I like to express thanks in my own mind at the end of the day, and I write three things I’m grateful for each morning to start the day well. Some of my clients prefer to express their gratitude face-to-face. Some write gratitude emails. Some managers I know express their gratitude and appreciation to their team members daily (it’s a very powerful leadership habit). Some people write in their gratitude journals. Some put marbles in a jar for each thing or person they are grateful for.
Whatever your thing is, do your thing.
Focus on both the big things and the small joys and don’t overthink it. Some things I’ve been grateful for recently are (in no particular order): my good health, hot tea from my favorite cup, my laptop, my mom’s successful emergency surgery and her recovery, my clients, my friends, being able to work from home, my wonderful tax advisor, my gratitude practice, a sunny day in December.
The truth is that the most important things in life are usually intangible. Things like health, love, relationships, spirituality, happiness, living according to our values, being at peace with oneself. You will find them easily when you give them your attention.
When you establish your gratitude routine, follow it daily. You can be vague at the beginning and later you can go more granular. And remember, every new habit and mindset shift takes patience and practice. With time, you will see a positive change in your mood, attitude, your thoughts and behavior. You will be happier and more grounded. And isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?
With gratitude and season’s greetings,
More for you:
Gratitude Works! by Robert A. Emmons
Are you a manager or HR expert? Do you want to know better what happens when gratitude and appreciation are missing in the workplace? Read: “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” by Dr. Robert I. Sutton. It’s truly eye-opening about the cost (in hard dollars) of a toxic workplace.
ONLINE RESOURCES: a beautiful illustrated gratitude project by artist Susan Talanand her resulting illustrated book “Wear Gratitude (Like a Sweater)“
Gratitude Academy https://academy.gratitude.com