What is gratefulness? Some might say it’s a concept or a value, others may say it’s an attitude, or maybe it’s a spiritual or religious practice. Like many words in our language, it has several meanings depending upon context and audience. In the philosophical, psychological, religious and spiritual context it is believed that gratefulness is the key to holistic health. In fact, there are many, including this author who have experienced very positive changes through the practice of gratefulness.
If you don’t fit into any of the groups listed above, perhaps you would be interested in a scientific study. In 2003, Robert A. Emmons Department of Psychology, University of California Davis and Michael E. McCullough, Department of Psychology, University of Miami, became curious about why people who have a high degree of faith and a prevailing sense of gratitude seem to have a much higher degree of satisfaction and holistic health. They created a study, which in its simplest form, had participants keep daily journals. One group wrote about everything they were thankful for during the day and the other group recorded everything that did not go well during the day.
As stated in the AFC News Source the results of the study showed “higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCullough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.” Additionally, they found that these results are not specific to any religion or faith; they are pertinent to the general population, meaning that anyone can adopt this practice and transform their lives.
Imagine if you will, that all you had to do to feel good, to be positive and to increase your energy is to be kind to yourself and others. How hard can that be? Yet, we do not see it often, particularly in the world of business. By definition, business is competitive; it’s about making money, the bottom line, if you will. It’s about having the “whatever it takes” attitude to get things done well, on time and at the lowest cost possible. Can you see how this attitude is not amenable to kindness and gratitude? Why, you might ask, is this so important to the business community?
One way to answer that question is to read the study mentioned above and consider the scientific results, which prove that gratitude and kindness generates holistic health. A holistic approach to health is about understanding the multi-dimensional levels of humans. It’s about creating balance between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of humans. Fortunately, there are many companies and organizations that have created cultures based on gratitude, appreciation and respect for everyone. They will be happy to share how this has improved the bottom line. You don’t have to look very far, just walk into the nearest Market Basket.
There are so many things to be grateful for and it’s not only the good things we need to be grateful for, it’s important to be grateful for all that comes our way. It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life. Normally, when I ask people what they are grateful for they list things like family, health, friends and things that bring them joy. My challenge to them, and you, is to find gratefulness in all your experiences. Living life to the fullest is about embracing it all, not just the fun parts. Here are some examples of things people have told me they are grateful for:
- The fact that a mortally ill grandchild has provided his family an invaluable lesson about what is most important in life and the power of living moment by moment and appreciating everything.
- More than one professional who has commented how grateful they were for being laid off because it freed them up to go after what they really wanted, but they never would have left on their own.
- The business owner who was grateful for the lessons he learned from losing a huge client. It made him a better leader and a more successful CEO.
November is a month dedicated to Thanksgiving. I challenge you all to use this as an opportunity to become very conscious about what gratefulness means to you. Look for the things in your life that are important to you and write down what you are grateful for each day. You will find that when you adopt a gratefulness mindset, there is no place for negativity to reside. Negative things will happen but when you look at them through the perspective of gratefulness you will find the positive in the situation and be able to release negative thought patterns.
I am grateful to all who read this column and wish you and your families a very happy and gratefulness filled Thanksgiving.