4 Easy Ways to Develop a Sense of Gratitude
Psychological research has consistently shown a positive correlation between gratitude, good health and personal satisfaction in life. In this post, I will describe four easy ways to develop a sense of gratitude and ask you to consider taking on a gratitude challenge in the coming year.
Write in a Gratitude Journal
Write in a weekly journal about things for which you are grateful. This could include just one sentence on anything from the profound to the simple. For example, one Friday over the summer I wrote the following two journal entries. Entry #1: “I am deeply grateful for my family.” Entry #2: “I am grateful to have the flexibility to skip out of work early to play golf this afternoon!” These two things are vastly different in terms of their relative importance, but I’m grateful for both of them.
Why is writing in a gratitude journal important? I don’t know about you, but my life is filled with lots of good stuff, along with challenges and frustrations. As human beings, our brains are wired to remember and give priority weighting to the negative. For me, it’s important to recognize and remember the good stuff. It makes the challenges and frustrations easier to tolerate and, frankly, it makes me happy.
Write Thank-You Notes
Send a hand written thank you note to personally thank people for acts of kindness, professionalism, support, generosity, etc.
Why is it important to write thank you notes? I teach a performance management program that includes a module on employee engagement and the benefits of providing recognition. When I ask participants: “What is the most meaningful recognition you have ever received?” there will always be multiple stories about having received a hand written thank you note. The recipients will describe how the hand written note felt so personal and made them feel appreciated. In many cases, participants report having held on to such notes for 10 years or more.
Write a Letter of Gratitude
Write a letter to someone whom you are grateful to have in your life. In the letter, acknowledge the things this person has done for you and how they have positively impacted your life.
Why is writing a letter of gratitude important? Writing a letter of gratitude takes the thank you note to a much higher level. In a thank you note, you will typically thank someone for something they did. A letter of gratitude is thanking someone for who they are and what they have meant to you in your life. All too often we don’t tell people just how much they mean to us. The act of writing such a letter will fill you with endorphins and other good stuff. That’s what’s in it for you. However, having been the recipient of such letters in the past, I assure you that when you give someone this gift, you will blow them away.
Meditate for Increased Awareness
In today’s work environment, we often operate on auto-pilot, moving from activity to activity. There isn’t much time to pause and reflect. As a result, good things can happen to us that we are unable to recognize and/or appreciate in the moment. If you need help getting out of auto-pilot mode, I’d suggest experimenting with meditation.
Why is meditation important? In addition to the well documented health benefits, meditation is a great technique to increase your awareness. It is only with awareness that we are able to notice opportunities for gratitude. To get started with a simple meditation practice, I suggest downloading the following free, highly rated apps onto your phone: (1) Stop, Breathe and Think, (2) Insight Timer, and/or (3) Take a Break – Guided Meditation.
The Gratitude Challenge
Now that you’ve reviewed the four steps, I’d encourage you to consider developing your sense of gratitude in 2016. Review the following reflection questions to determine whether this idea resonates with you and the type of person you want to become.
- On a scale of 1-10, how important is developing a sense of gratitude to you?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much energy do you have to develop the four gratitude habits?
If your scores for questions 1 and 2 are high…. Developing your sense of gratitude is important and you have energy around doing something about it. What is the first step you will take?
If your scores are low… Developing your sense of gratitude is low in importance and/or not a priority for you. If this is the case, what will happen if you do nothing? What opportunities will be lost?
Life is short. Be grateful. Express your gratitude.
Happy New Year everyone!
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