Cultivating gratitude can improve our productivity.
Gratitude and a life that matters
It’s always important to think about the things we’re grateful for, but it seemed especially fitting to talk about this topic as this episode is being published the day before Thanksgiving Day here in the US.
What is gratitude?
“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia (grace, graciousness, or gratefulness).
“Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness.”
In an article on gratefulness.org, Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, says gratitude has two key components:
- Affirmation of goodness
- Recognition that the source of goodness is outside of ourselves
“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.”
“We cannot be grateful for all that a given moment brings us; yet, in any given moment, we can be grateful for something. The gift within the gift of any given moment is opportunity.”
“Grateful living is a way of life which asks us to notice all that is already present and abundant . . . and in so doing, to take nothing for granted. We can learn to focus our attention on, and acknowledge, that life is a gift.”
~ Dr. David Steindl-Rast in What is Gratitude?
In any given moment, we may not be grateful for everything, nor should we be expected to be. But I do believe that in any situation, there is always something to be grateful for. The concept here is that where our attention is in any given situation is what defines our experience of life. A happy life requires us to be looking for that thing we could be grateful for.
To live a grateful life, you must first notice, and thus become aware of, that thing you can be grateful for. Once you’re aware of it, focus your attention on it–choose to focus on the good rather than the bad. Finally, acknowledge it–in your mind, at least, and maybe even out loud.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to us, gratitude can be deliberately cultivated, and there are many benefits to doing so.
Benefits of gratitude
Simply put, grateful people are more productive, both in the sense of getting important things done and also in the sense of making lives that matter. One excellent article on the benefits of gratitude points out the following (among others):
- Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career.
- It makes us happier, more optimistic: In a study of the effects of keeping a weekly gratitude journal, participants showed a measurable increase in optimism.
- It makes people like us: “Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative.”
- It increases our productivity: “As gratitude has been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce insecurity, this means that it can help us focus and improve our productivity.” This is because confident (secure) people are able to direct more of their focus toward their work because they’re not distracted by their insecurities.
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Gratitude generates more gratitude.
“Brain scans of people assigned a task that stimulates expression of gratitude show lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude. The emotion literally pays itself forward.”
The more we focus on being grateful, the more of it we’ll experience it–gratitude is a continuing, self-feeding habit of the mind.
Ways to cultivate gratitude in your own life
- Write a thank-you note, email or even better, snail mail
- Keep a gratitude journal in a notebook or app (5 Minute Journal)
- Set a reminder on your phone to pause and mentally say thank you for something or about someone
- Make a list of people who’ve inspired or encouraged you and thank them mentally, in person, or in writing
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.”
~ Zig Ziglar
What do you think?
- Gratitude – Psychology Today
- What is Gratitude?
- 31 Benefits of Gratitude: The Ultimate Science-Backed Guide
- In Praise of Gratitude
- 5 Minute Journal app
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