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Happiness Research, Things To Try

The Power of Gratitude

In the last post (www.howtobehappyatwork.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/a-matter-of-perspective) I discussed the impact that our perspectives have on our happiness at work.  Now I would like to introduce you to a new movement sweeping the world, which is helping people change their perspectives, be more positive, productive and happier in all aspects of their lives, including at work.  It is not a new cult or complex seven step process, just the practice of gratitude – simply giving thanks.

A great deal of research has occurred on gratitude in recent years and what has been found is that gratitude is good for you, really good for you. For example, in one experiment people who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis were found to:

  • exercise more regularly and report less illness
  • feel better about their lives as a whole
  • be more optimistic about the upcoming week
  • have made more progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based).
  • be more alert, enthusiastic, determined, attentive and energised.

 Wow, sounds great doesn’t it!

The fact is that when we think about someone or something we really appreciate the calming-branch of the autonomic nervous system is triggered. The result is that we feel more peaceful and coherent.  The brain also releases dopamine and serotonin which give us a natural “feel good” high. So by simply practicing gratitude we have the ability to bring about immediate positive change in our physical, mental and emotional state.

 Many people have used the power of gratitude to change their lives.  One of the most inspirational examples comes from Hayley Bartholomew who started the 365 Grateful project.  Read more about her journey at www.thedaybrightener.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/365-grateful.

Leo Babauta has also experienced the power of gratitude in his own life, and attests that the simple act of appreciation on a regular basis will change anyone’s life, positively and immediately. Here are some of Leo’s great ideas for how we can incorporate gratitude into our lives at work:

Something For You To Try

1. Have a morning gratitude session. Take one minute in the morning (make it a daily ritual) to think of the people who have done something nice for you, to think of all the things in your life you’re grateful for. It will instantly make your day better, and help you start your day off right. Can you think of a better use of one minute?

2. When you’re having a hard day … make a gratitude list. We all have those bad days at work. We are stressed out, we get criticized, we lose a contract or do poorly on a project. One of the things that can make a bad day much better is making a list of all the things you’re thankful for. There are always things to be thankful for — loved ones, health, having a job, having a roof over your head and clothes on your back, life itself.

3. Instead of getting mad at someone, show gratitude. If you get mad at your co-worker, for example, because of something he or she did … bite your tongue and don’t react in anger. Instead, take some deep breaths, calm down, and try to think of reasons you’re grateful for that person. Has that person done anything nice for you? Has that person ever done a good job? Find something, anything, even if it’s difficult. Focus on those things that make you grateful. It will slowly change your mood. And if you get in a good enough mood, show your gratitude to that person. It will improve your mood, your relationship, and help make things better.

4. When you face a major challenge, be grateful for it. Many people will see something difficult as a bad thing. If something goes wrong, it’s a reason to complain, it’s a time of self-pity. That won’t get you anywhere. Instead, learn to be grateful for the challenge — it’s an opportunity to grow, to learn, to get better at something. This will transform you from a complainer into a positive person who only continues to improve. People will like you better and you’ll improve your career. Not too shabby.

5. Instead of looking at what you don’t have, look at what you do have. Have you ever looked around you and bemoaned how little you have? How the place you live isn’t your dream house, or the car you drive isn’t as nice as you’d like, or your peers have cooler gadgets or better jobs? If so, that’s an opportunity to be grateful for what you already have. It’s easy to forget that there are billions of people worse off than you — who don’t have much in the way of shelter or clothes, who don’t own a car and never will, who don’t own a gadget or even know what one is, who don’t have a job at all or only have very menial, miserable jobs in sweatshop conditions. Compare your life to these people’s lives, and be grateful for the life you have. And realize that it’s already more than enough, that happiness is not a destination — it’s already here.

Read more about Leo’s advice about gratitude at www.zenhabits.net/8-tremendously-important-ways-that-gratitude-can-change-your-life

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