Gratitude is a state of being, a mindset, an emotion, a virtue, a human strength, a coping response, a conscious practice and so much more. It is truly the wellspring of wellbeing. Let the following ideas about gratitude help you empower wellness in your family, team and organization, and the planet—in December and beyond.
SCIENCE INVITES US TO BE GRATEFUL
From observing religious traditions to reflecting on the past year, December is often a time when we deliberately pause to be grateful. We donate to our local nonprofits. We share a holiday meal with others. We go out of our way to say thanks and praise our coworkers. We spend quality time with family and friends. This season of the year reminds us that we don’t need more goals or parties or things—we need more gratitude for the abundance already outside us and within.
When we shift from gratitude as a passing season to gratitude as a way to live and lead, science says the benefits are plentiful.
• Gratitude enhances our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Eastern and Western healing traditions have long known gratitude as part of a holistic wellness strategy. Gratitude reduces our hassles in life and work (as well as our complaints), decreases anxiety and depression, increases the feel-good neurotransmitters in our brains, buffers us from the negative, and is a source of our resilience and adaptability during stressful times. When we are grateful, our mental strength swells, and we’re better equipped to turn post-traumatic stress, such as with a life-threatening illness, into lifelong growth. With gratitude guiding our understanding of who we are, we appreciate what we have in the present, rather than overidentifying with the past or the future. We are more apt to tap into the spiritual dimension of our existence.
• Gratitude forges positive connections. It expands our sense of ourselves and others; connects us with prosocial emotions, such as positivity and appreciation; and opens the door to new relationships. When we are grateful, our brain region for empathy lights up, enabling us to better understand other peoples’ perspectives and walk in their shoes. The find-remind-and-bind theory goes as far as to say that gratitude is central to forming reciprocal, altruistic bonds in our most important relationships, “those with the people we care about and count on from one day to the next”—the people at work and home who have the greatest effect on our wellbeing.
• Gratitude uplifts our work and our organizations. A culture of gratitude at work is linked with greater job satisfaction by employees; less turnover; less depression, isolation, aggression and conflict; increased humility by leaders that can lead to better employee empowerment; and more helpful coworkers. When we are grateful, we are more likely to experience fulfillment and success at work as well as build positive bonds and trusting relationships with others. Gratitude plays a big role in providing effective feedback, too; of employees canvassed by Glassdoor, 81 percent say they are motivated to work harder for leaders that show sincere appreciation.
LIVE AND LEAD WITH GRATITUDE
Gratitude is often described as “the key that opens all doors” and “that which unlocks the fullness of life.” As a wellness leader, how can you proactively use gratitude to lead workplaces, families and communities where people thrive? Experiment with these ideas:
• Connect with gratitude personally. When you do, you’ll be more able to exude and amplify gratitude in the lives of others. Try out this short loving-kindness meditation, watch this heart-opening video by Louie Schwartzberg and Brother David Steindl-Rast, or journal three things you’re grateful for when you wake up each day. When you cultivate the response of gratefulness to each moment of your life, you will naturally live and lead from wellbeing.
• Get smarter about gratitude. Most people have experienced gratitude at some point but don’t think about intentionally using it for better teamwork, productivity and connection. Check out the Science of Gratitude, a whitepaper by the Greater Good Science Center; this engaging Gratitude Lab; or these terrific appreciation resources. Better yet, have a dialogue with members of your family or team about how you can make gratitude a priority together.
• Leave your work with gratitude. No matter how discouraging things are in your team or the latest project, end your day by writing down at least three things you are grateful for. Need motivation? Check out how these kids are turning their hard days into easy days through the conscious empowerment of gratitude.
• Let gratitude win. When you or your team come to an impasse between being stressed out or being grateful, choose gratitude. Our cultures at work and home have allowed violence, arrogance and anger to become a significant part of our modern lives. As this transformative video about the power of gratitude emphasizes, with a discipline of conscious practice, it’s just as easy to make love, happiness, peace and thankfulness the norm.
• Pay gratitude forward. There are a million ways to show gratitude. For instance, invite your team to create a gratitude wall, a digital or live community mind-map of what each person is thankful for in their lives. Promote positive posting on social media to publicly elevate your employees, customers and partners. Dive into this excellent gratitude toolkit to build employee and customer engagement. Or, learn about how this CEO writes 9,000+ “thank you” cards—one for every person in his company. The return on his investment of gratitude? A culture of shared success and compassion.
• Follow a gratitude leader. For example, Hyatt has marked December 11 as Global Day of Gratitude, an invitation for their colleagues, guests, customers, and friends to share a Gratitude Gram with anyone in the world. In return, Hyatt Hotels Foundation will donate USD$1 for every Gratitude Gram sent, totaling up to USD$100,000, to the Youth Career Initiative or Grads of Life, two organizations that prepare deserving and at-risk youth for lifelong careers in hospitality. Ready to follow their lead? Put a policy or practice into place that makes gratitude a strategic, meaningful and enduring quality of your organization and all of its stakeholders.