Discovering the Unexpected Benefits of Gratitude

As another year rushes by, it’s essential to pause and reflect on what we’re thankful for. The image here captures the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls in Zambia, a place I had the privilege of visiting this past summer. Such moments of gratitude bring about remarkable benefits. Unlike our American friends, we may not have a specific holiday dedicated to gratitude, but that doesn’t diminish its importance.

Gratitude isn’t just a pleasant sentiment; it’s a powerful force for good, particularly when it comes to our health and overall happiness. Research suggests a strong connection between gratitude and well-being, and two prominent psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have made significant strides in this area. In one study, they asked participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on specific topics.

One group reflected on things they were grateful for in the past week, while another group documented daily irritations or displeasing experiences. The third group recounted various events that affected them, without distinguishing between positive or negative occurrences. After ten weeks, those who practiced gratitude reported increased optimism, improved life satisfaction, and surprisingly, they engaged in more physical activity and had fewer visits to physicians compared to the other groups.*

Starting to express gratitude may seem challenging, especially if you’re struggling to think of something significant to be thankful for. However, even the smallest things count. Once you begin, you’ll likely find more reasons to be grateful. During the darker seasons of the year, cultivating this mindset can bring a ray of light to your soul.

Cultivating Gratitude

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude, especially during the Christmas season when you hold a leadership role:

1. Handwritten Thank You Notes: In an era dominated by electronic communication, take the time to craft a personalized thank-you note that acknowledges a specific contribution from a team member or colleague. Research has shown that this simple act not only boosts your happiness but also strengthens your relationship with the recipient.

2. Make Gratitude a Habit: Develop a daily or weekly practice of gratitude. By focusing on what you’re thankful for, you’ll become more attuned to positive aspects of your life. This doesn’t mean ignoring challenges but intentionally highlighting gratitude can enhance your overall happiness and positively influence your environment.

3. Maintain a Gratitude Journal: Keeping a gratitude journal allows you to reflect on people and situations that you appreciate. Even during challenging times, you can find blessings to acknowledge. Reviewing past entries can serve as a reminder of what you’ve been grateful for in the past.

4. Stress Reduction and Self-Esteem: It’s no surprise that concentrating on gratitude can lower stress levels and boost self-esteem. In a world full of stressors, dedicating time to this kind of reflection will make you a healthier and more effective leader.

In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, “The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” Cultivating an attitude of gratitude not only benefits your health but also enhances your relationships. I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for this year.

It’s been great journeying with you in 2023. Wishing you continued success and a joyful holiday season.

*Quoted from: an article Harvard Health Publishing. Link here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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