It sounds easy, but being constantly thankful isn’t the natural default setting for humans. We are born with creative and critical minds, and that means sometimes looking for the flaws in things, trying to identify how we can improve them, and also looking out for potential danger.
The Gratitude Workout
For many of us, being grateful is something we have to practice. Building an appreciative outlook is very much like building a muscle; it will get stronger and stronger and offer increased benefits the more we exercise it. What most of us are in the habit of doing is seeing gratitude as the result of success or fortune. But the real power of gratitude is unleashed when we use it before success, when we see it as a source of happiness and satisfaction, not as an end product.
The key is to practice gratitude even when you don’t want to. Even when you feel as if you don’t have much to be grateful for and that your life is a struggle. Search, a little bit, and you’ll undoubtedly find things to appreciate.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Data collated from numerous research studies have shown how just five minutes a day focusing on what you have to be grateful for might actually change your life, more than falling in love, winning the lottery or getting promoted. Participants in a controlled study who regularly used a written gratitude diary recorded major shifts in their levels of happiness and life satisfaction after a few months.
Other studies suggest that nurturing an appreciative and grateful attitude can also develop patience and better decision making. A recent article on APS (Association for Psychological Science) describes how a team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside, and Harvard Kennedy School have used studies to demonstrate that feelings of gratitude automatically reduce financial impatience. Assistant Professor Ye Li from the University of California, Riverside School of Business Administration says:
Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking.
Appreciate Your Way to Business Success
In his book “The Trust Edge, How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line “, David Horsager advocates that trust and gratitude are key ingredients in creating a successful business.
David Ward, the founder and director of Sussex based business VWHeritage, is of the same opinion. In 25 years his company has grown from a two man show to a 60 strong team with an annual turnover of millions. At his home on the Brighton Marina David has a photograph which runs the length of his hallway and shows a line of one hundred or so people standing on the beach. Every one of those people helped him in some way, whether it was the friend who lent him a hundred pounds to buy his first VW camper van or the person who gave him a washing up job in exchange for accommodation twenty years ago in Germany, no one is neglected.
“For me, being grateful is about seeing the positive,” he says, “It helps when things get tough, seeing that there is still a lot to be thankful for. When it comes to business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not really seeing the people we work with. It’s easy to take others for granted. But your staff are your best asset. If you don’t appreciate them, this mistake can have huge costs in the long run. An attitude of positive appreciation, of valuing what you have and the team you work with can have a trickle down effect on the entire company.”
Remember, gratitude is a habit, don’t berate yourself if it doesn’t come naturally. Simply spend a few minutes each day, or a three times a week, and list five things you are grateful for. After three months, monitor how you feel about your life, things will probably be looking much brighter.
Image Courtesy: Difei Li, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0,via flickr