Imagine Thanksgiving as a way of life.
Half the Pilgrims died the first year. Despite suffering great deprivation and financial ruin, two years later they celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Against all odds the Plymouth Colony survived. Today, the same truth holds: gratitude is a key component of healthy living.
Gratitude improves your health
When we’re grateful we sleep better, have lower pressure. 107 year old Lona Collins when asked about the secret of staying young said, “Don’t go crabbin.”
Gratitude reduces stress
It promotes adaptive coping as it directs attention and emotion away from difficulties to what’s good, which feels artificial at first.
By training ourselves to focus on abundance rather than lack, we foster a mindset that affects our physiology. Our energy is renewed.
There are various ways to show or generate thankfulness. Journaling is one – ask “What am I thankful for?” and record your thoughts in a notebook. Try the Thankfulness Report where you share three things during mealtime conversation. Even if you don’t have wins, notice what you’re be grateful for: heat, a home, nourishing food. Try the “George Bailey Technique” from It’s A Wonderful Life– think about the absence – what if I weren’t here, what if you’d never been born?
No one can be stressed and thankful at the same time. Take a gratitude walk where you notice and appreciate what’s around—flood brain and body with the positive. Be grateful for your health, family, your eyes and ears. A man paralyzed in an accident was overcome with thanksgiving when he could move his big toe.
Happiness is a bi-product of gratitude. The opposite is complaining about what isn’t, hasn’t, won’t. Scarcity is not the final word. Recounting your three blessings at the end of the day will help you go to sleep. Rehearsing them can help you get back to sleep.
Gratitude links to great happiness
In The Utopian Life, Thai Nguyen blogged about the role naturally occurring chemicals have in creating happiness.
- Dopamine is motivational and helps us get stuff done. It’s released when we celebrate even small wins. Break big goals down into little pieces – rather than only celebrating when we complete a project, break it into chunks so each finished task creates a win, releasing dopamine.
- Serotonin is released when we feel significant. Without serotonin we can feel acute loneliness and even slide into depression. Regardless of what we’re facing in the moment, reflecting on significant achievements allows the brain to re-live the experience and release serotonin.
- Oxytocin is released during times of intimacy and builds healthy relationships. Studies show personal touch raises oxytocin, reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system. The message here is there’s great reward in investing and going deeper in important relationships.
- Endorphins are released when we’re in pain or under stress to lessen anxiety. Think of pushing through a demanding workout or run and the calm you feel afterwards. Along with regular exercise, laughter makes us feel better because it releases endorphins, so bring your sense of humor to work.
Gratitude is Good for Your Career
Gratitude helps you accomplish your goals. Studies show feeling appreciated increases perseverance which helps us work patiently toward the long-term results instead of settling for less right now. It gives us stamina to delay gratification.
Gratitude drives performance. If a leader fails to show it, it will slow if not kill their people – the same people who will give the effort and creativity to others who show appreciation. So, leaders don’t suck the life out of your people.
Use Words to Express Your Gratitude
It is essential not just to feel grateful but to express your gratitude – your words have power. We must get over whatever is holding us back from giving thanks in the workplace. Showing gratitude means you realize success is a team effort – it is an expression of need and vulnerability. Leaders empower and affirm when they praise people publicly and privately. Positive feedback weaves people into the organization as a whole.
Giving thanks is a complete circle. It is good for us and for those around us. It needs to be cultivated to become part of our DNA. I’m committed to practice giving thanks day-by-day so gratitude becomes more than a habit, but a value I cherish.