Grease The Wheels of Life And Business With Gratitude
You know those times when nothing seems to go right and you just feel frustrated? Then before you know it, you are in a vicious cycle of crap?
Well, the key to changing that might actually be quite simple. Rather than greasing the squeaky wheel, it might be time to appreciate what is working and practice some gratitude.
It Happens To Us All
Over the last few weeks a bit too much work and far too little play had made me a grumpy guy. Stress had built up, the ‘to do’ list was long and executing anything had become a drag.
So, you can imagine what a joy I was when I got on a call with my health coach and started moaning at him about all that was wrong. His response? "What is going well in your life Krish? What can you really appreciate be grateful for?"
My first reaction was to stare at him wide-eyed and incredulous. But with a bit of coaxing, I started naming some achievements and some things I could appreciate. My coach stopped me and said "Close your eyes and bring the experience to mind. Experience the good feeling connected with the things you are grateful for."
In short, I did and I felt much better for it. My homework? To sit down with my partner twice a week and share 5 to 10 things but I'm really grateful for. The impact? Well let's just say I'm feeling much better, more productive, less stressed and more focused.
Why Does Gratitude Work?
As T. Harv Ecker said, “Where attention goes, energy flows and results show”. Quite simply, focus on the good stuff and you get more good stuff.
As Alex Kolb puts it, “Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle. Your brain only has so much power to focus its attention. It cannot easily focus on both positive and negative stimuli. It is like a small child: easily distracted.”
This is not only an ancient spiritual principle but gratitude has become one of the foundation practices for Positive Psychology. However, we are not just talking some feel-good mumbo jumbo here. The list of scientific studies proving the huge impact of gratitude is growing at a fast rate.
What Is The Impact of Gratitude?
Quite simply, practising gratitude can grease the wheels of your business and your life as a Maverick. Some of the scientifically proven benefits are:
- Helps with goal achievement – Gratitude increases optimism which can have a big impact on goal achievement. One 2003 study showed that keeping a daily gratitude journal increases optimism by 15%.
- Builds self-esteem – a 2014 study in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology showed that athletes who expressed gratitude had significantly higher levels of self-esteem, a significant factor in peak performance.
- Develops resilience – practicing gratitude improves mental health, lowers stress and strengthens resilience to trauma. For example, a 2006 study in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that Vietnam vets who practice gratitude were more resilient to and impacted less by the effects of PTSD.
- Strengthens relationships and networking – gratitude makes us nicer and more trustworthy people to be around. It also heightens our mood, making us more attractive and influential. In fact, one 2008 study showed that people who are 10% more grateful than the average had 17.5% more social capital.
- Enhances decision making – a 2001 study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found doctors who were shown appreciation were more likely to consider expanded options and come to a more accurate diagnosis than those who were not. So, the expansive feeling gratitude generates can create more considered decision making.
- Improves sleep – as Ariana Huffington advocates, sleep is one of the biggest determinants of productivity and well-being. A 2009 study showed that people who practice gratitude sleep longer and better than those who don’t.
- Builds leadership capability – According to Randy Raggio, “Gratitude motivates positive reciprocal behaviour”, so thanking people who work with you creates goodwill and willingness to go above and beyond. Also appreciating and focusing on people’s strengths in the workplace, rather than weaknesses can increase performance by 36% (Corporate Leadership Council 2005).
There are many other benefits from cultivating appreciation in your life as well, but it doesn’t just have to be the big things that you celebrate. In fact, the more you can spot small things in your life to appreciate, the more you train your brain to search for other things to appreciate…creating the virtuous circle that Kolb talked about.
How To Incorporate Gratitude
Don’t worry. You don’t have to go all hippy to get some of the good stuff. Here are some ways you can bring some gratitude in…and remember, it is the practice of gratitude i.e. you will gain more benefit if you practice appreciation on a regular basis.
Keep a journal – the most well-known gratitude practice is to write down 5 things you are grateful for every day. The important thing though is to connect with the feeling of gratitude as you write, so it might be better to write down 1 thing your truly appreciate than 5 for the sake of it.
- Incorporate it into your morning routine – I now use the Five Minute Journal every morning to set up my day, and part of that is to write 3 gratitudes. This actually puts me in a great frame of mind for what is possible each day.
- Tell a loved one something you appreciate about them each and every day.
- Change the conversation – so many conversations with friends are just moan-fests. How about starting social conversations with 5-10 things that you are grateful for?
- Write a note of gratitude – many of us have mentors, friends, colleagues or teachers who have made a huge different to us but we may not have thanked them for their impact. How about writing that thank you note?