Gratitude – the Ultimate Healer

May 21, 2020 Lynne Levy

5-minute read

children giving teacher flowers

Take a deep breath; the last few months have not been easy.

As uncertainty continues in our daily lives, many are overcome with fear and anxiety, shifting to anger and stress, and then back again. The stress we are all feeling is normal and necessary during challenging times. Stress prepares our mind and body for action; it is the reaction we use to help keep ourselves safe. This pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint, that requires resilience.

The one tool proven to help build physical and emotional resilience is gratitude. Gratitude, according to scientists, is a deep feeling of appreciation. And research shows gratitude can be especially helpful during a crisis like COVID-19. Several studies, for example, found expressing gratitude enabled individuals to find joy and happiness after the 9/11 attacks. 

Gratitude improves our physical and mental health.

Your mind and body are connected though a constant feedback loop. We all have the talk track in the back of our mind. Research shows focusing our thoughts on gratitude can create benefits for  our physical and mental health, including decreased inflammation, greater cardiovascular health, alleviation of depression, and improved mental resilience.

Practicing gratitude can also block negative emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment, and regret, which can wreak havoc on happiness. 

Research psychologist Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have found that gratitude is a two-step cognitive process:

  • Recognizing that you have obtained a positive outcome
  • Recognizing that there’s an external source linked to this positive outcome

Here are some simple ways to express gratitude throughout the day:

1.    Express gratitude for the simple things.

Building a gratitude practice means you are not selective; you are grateful for the routine things at work and life. Be grateful for the technology that enables you to work from home; appreciate the fact that you have a warm bed to sleep in at night; and be grateful for the awesome colleagues on your team.  

Here are a few things I am grateful for:

  • My awesome boss who gives me the space to create blogs about things I care about
  • My new puppy
  • The slight chill of the morning dew on the grass
  • The dark roast coffee I drank this morning
  • The green leaves on the tree right outside my office
  • My wonderful husband, who has taken over the cooking in the house

2.    Express gratitude to those on the front line.

We can feel and express our gratitude to others in many ways, even when we are practicing social distancing. Take a moment to express gratitude to the first responders, doctors, grocery store workers, and emergency medical service staff on the front lines of the pandemic. 

When you walk into a grocery store, and someone has cleaned your cart, pause and say a heartfelt “thank you.” When you show your appreciation to strangers, it helps you realize we are all connected. 

3.    Start a gratitude journal.

Each day write down three very specific things you’re grateful for. It could be the cup of steaming hot coffee or the sun shining on your face as you answer emails in the backyard. It could be moments with your colleagues and family that created joy. Maintain the list in a journal or on your phone. Find a regular time – first thing in the morning or at the end of the workday – to review and add to these moments. 

4.    Listen.

When talking to your colleagues, ask questions and really listen to their answers. Pay attention to their body language and tone of voice. Take a moment to pause so you can direct all of your attention to your colleague without interrupting their words. Listening deeply makes others feel supported and shows you care.

5.    Start a gratitude thread.

Each week start a gratitude thread on Slack or another messaging service. Ask each person to share their moment of gratitude. Witnessing others’ moments of appreciation will increase your own resiliency and joy.

6.    Understand your bigger “why.”

When we connect to our sense of purpose, it gives context to our stress and struggle. It doesn’t eliminate the challenges, but it fuels us with energy to move through them. As you go through your day, with meetings, to-do lists, childcare, chores, think about your bigger “why” to fuel you with positivity and build your resiliency.

7.    Express gratitude as part of team meetings.

At the start of staff meetings, ask about the good things that happened over the past week. By starting with gratitude, you create an environment of positivity.

  1. Recognize your colleagues.

Social Recognition® is a powerful tool to show appreciation for your colleagues. By sharing these moments of appreciation within the walls of your company, a sense of positivity and connectedness is created across the entire organization.

  1. Reflect.

When you express gratitude, reflect on the actual moment. For example, when I think about gratitude for a joke my son told, I imagine myself listening to the joke, connecting with him, and feeling those same emotions. 

Notice how you are feeling before, during, and after expressing gratitude. Your reflection and awareness of how you feel is key to experiencing the positive health impacts that come with being thankful.

We will get through these stressful times. In the meantime, leverage the powerful tool of gratitude to build your resilience and create joy and happiness as we work our way through these stressful times.

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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