This is the week for overeating, football and joining family members to strengthen close relationships or endure strained ones. For some, it is the beginning of a frenzied holiday season with Black Friday sales and thoughts of holiday decorations. For others, it is a time that ushers in memories of lost opportunities, distant loves or dearly departed friends or family members.
We know the story of the Pilgrims and the bitter first winter in the new world. We recognize the part the very generous Native Americans played. We may give some thought to the reason for this important American holiday. If we are religious, we may see Thanksgiving as a privilege and a duty.
It turns out that gratitude and thankfulness also have tremendous personal and professional benefits.
Research on the presence or absence of gratitude suggests the following important returns on the gratitude investment:
- Stronger Relationships—Holding and expressing gratitude makes you friendlier and can even improve your marriage (Gordon, 2013).
- Increased Physical Well-being —Extensive research on the impact of gratitude on physical health showed 16% fewer unpleasant physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, 8% more sleep, 25% increased sleep quality and a decrease in systolic blood pressure (Amin, 2014b).
- Enhanced Emotional Well-being —Researchers found individuals who regularly considered and listed reasons to be grateful showed increased hope and optimism, reduced anxiety and depression and greater happiness. In addition, they showed increased self-esteem and were less materialistic (McCollough, Emmons and Tsang (2002) and Amin, (2014a).
- Improved Decision Making — Researchers at Northeastern University looking at the ability to delay financial gratification and decision-making found that individuals who felt more grateful were able to demonstrate greater patience and delay making decisions until they had more information (Northeastern University, 2014).
- Expanded Productivity and Creativity— Gratitude enhances happiness; happiness, in turn, increases productivity and creativity (Amabile, 2012).
- Enhanced Management Skills— Individuals who practice gratitude are and become better leaders and managers. They are able to network more effectively and they generate employee and client loyalty (Emmons and Crumpler, 2000; Fabrega, 2008).
- Improved Work Environments—Researchers looking at gratitude in the work environment found more optimistic employees, better teamwork, lower absenteeism and lower stress in organizations that demonstrated and promoted gratitude (Jacobsen, 2012).
[For additional research on the topic of gratitude, Emmons and Mishra (2010) offer comprehensive reviews of research that include a variety of benefits.]
Research supporting the benefits of gratitude is very compelling. Because I discovered seven reasons gratitude helps us, I am listing seven ways to practice and demonstrate gratitude to others:
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Promote that attitude each day as you think about people and events in your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal to capture at least 10 reasons to be grateful each week. Set a specific time to capture those thoughts and ideas.
- Acknowledge that your success most often depends on other people.
- When adversity strikes, try to look for possible benefits.
- Create rituals in family and work situations that focus on people and events for which you are grateful.
- Verbally express gratitude to friends, family and colleagues at every reasonable opportunity.
- Write letters or notes of thanks to people who have contributed to accomplishing your goals or your well-being.
Gratitude is not something to practice only one day of the year. The benefits of gratitude extend to all areas of our lives.
When I was training to be a career coach, one of our very wise trainers, Julio Olalla, talked about the moods of life. The discussion is a topic for a complete blog, but his comments about the emotions that spring from different attitudes will always stay with me. He said that gratitude brings joy. That is the ultimate benefit.
Wishing you a very Joyful and Meaningful Thanksgiving.
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- Amabile, T. and Kramer, S. (2007 Inner Work Life: Understanding the Subtext of Business Performance.
- Amin, A. (2014a) The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting.
- Amin, A. (2014b) The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. Happier Human.
- Emmons, C. and Crumpler, C. (2000) Gratitude as a Human Strength: Appraising the Evidence from Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 56-69).
- Emmons, R. Mishra, (2010) A. Why Gratitude Enhances Well-Being: What We Know, What We Need to Know Psychology, UC Davis.
- Emmons, R. (2010) The Benefits of Gratitude. Greater Good Live.
- Fabrega, M. (n.d.) How Gratitude Can Change Your Life The Changeblog.
- Gordon, A. (2013) Is Gratitude the Antidote to Relationship Failure? Psychology Today.
- Harvard Health Publications (2011) Giving thanks can make you happier.
- Jacobsen, D. (2012) The Science of Gratitude and Well-being. Globoforce.
- McCollough, Emmons, Tsang (2002) The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002, Vol. 82, No. 1, 112-127.
- Northeastern University, College of Science (2014) Can Gratitude Reduce Costly Impatience?