It’s inspiring to hear people acknowledge the good things in their lives, particularly if they have experienced troubles and difficulties.
As we come to the end of another year, it’s timely to reflect on those things for which we are grateful.
The theme of my regular emails is to bring information which helps you to thrive in your lives and your work. What follows is some great evidence about why gratitude is a good thing for us all.
One of the recognised authorities in the field of research on gratitude is Robert Emmons Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He recently published his book on the psychology of gratitude: “Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”. Here are some points from his research.
- is outward-directed and other-directed
- helps with humility: we would not be where we are without the contribution of other people or the things which create the goodness in our lives); involves showing respect for others by recognising their good intentions in helping us
- is an acknowledgement that there are good things even we are feeling unhappy or if times are bad
- is a virtue as well as an emotion
- is morally and intellectually demanding (not fluffy, warm and fuzzy) is a choice, and is not always easy
Why does gratitude matter?
- contributes positively to friendships and civility
- results in increased connectedness, improved relationships and altruism
- those with high gratitude have better relationships, and are more likely to protect and preserve those relationships
- when people report feeling grateful, thankful and appreciative, they also feel more loving, forgiving, joyful and enthusiastic, have higher levels of positive emotions, are more resilient and can cope more effectively with stress. They may recover more quickly from illness, and benefit from greater physical health and fewer health complaints
- protects us from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness
- to improve sleep, count blessings, not sheep. Counting blessings may counteract the effects of hedonic adaptation: if we consciously remind ourselves of our blessings, it should become harder to take what we have for granted
- when we notice what we are grateful for, we are not noticing what we lack
The effect on our bodies
- drives out the toxic emotions of resentment, anger and envy
- gratitude and appreciation can restore the natural rhythms of the heart
- 23% average reduction in the stress hormone cortisol and 100% increase in the hormone DHEA, which reflects a state of physical relaxation. Increases in DHEA are correlated with increases in warm-heartedness (kindness, tolerance, appreciation, compassion)
Gratitude at Work
Aside from the scientific research, what do my clients say? Here are some comments from workshop participants on the subject of gratitude at work:
- helps me to see the good things
- keeps me honest
- reminds me why I am here
- helps me to manage change
- maintains perspective
- helps when I don’t have control over things
- it gets us working at the heart level, and gets us out of our heads
“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” (Seneca)
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” (Jean Baptiste Massieu)
Many thanks to each and every one of you, my readers, friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Wishing you all the very best for the holiday season and the New Year.