GRATITUDE

In light of the Thanksgiving Holiday, now is the perfect time to discuss the subject of gratitude.

Just as we recently examined how serving others produces a number of health benefits, the same is true for the expression of gratitude.  Studies performed by Professor Robert Emmons at U.C. Davis have found that expressing gratitude regularly aids in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and also reduces anxiety and the risk of depression.  As Professor Emmons states, “Gratitude is our best weapon, an ally to counter… internal and external threats that rob us of sustainable joy” (negativity, entitlement, and resentfulness being a few specific threats cited).  A number of other studies have found that gratitude also induces relaxation and improves sleep quality, vitality, and energy.  On an interpersonal level, expressing gratitude strengthens relationships, building “social capital” with others while simultaneously improving one’s social-wellbeing.

The numerous benefits of expressing gratitude are perhaps part of the reason why various entrepreneurs and other successful individuals argue that gratitude is a key component in experiencing success in life.  As Oprah Winfey has stated, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”  Additionally, the late leadership coach Zig Ziglar has stated that “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.  The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”  And from Inc.com contributing editor Goeffrey James, “People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life.  Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success.  And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.”

There are numerous ways in which you can express gratitude daily.  One of the most common methods is to set aside time regularly to reflect on what you are grateful for in life, both tangible and intangible.  Take the time to write these out in a journal where you can routinely review them, especially during times in which you may be having trouble expressing gratitude, an unfortunately common occurrence in our consumer-centric world.  While there is nothing wrong with having desires, desire absent from present gratitude can result in being envious and covetous, two traits which can truly crush your sense of self-worth and result in both physical and mental health problems.  Another way to show gratitude is to thank others for being a part of your life and the role they have performed in it.  Take this a step further as suggested by the late leadership coach Jim Rohn by taking such time to ask the other person what they are thankful for, as it will generate mutual gratitude.

If expressing gratitude regularly, or even at all, is not currently a habit for you, Success Magazine has suggested that you proceed by “faking thankfulness” as a type of reinforcement mechanism to cultivate gratitude.  For correlation, psychologists often discuss how individuals with depression can become trapped in “negative feedback loops” in which their negative thoughts can lead them further into depression, and how they can combat this via the inverse of this process (i.e., using positive thoughts) to pull themselves up from depression.  In regards to gratitude, begin to express gratitude, even if you are not necessarily sincere or believe that you are grateful at the present time, and allow this action to begin to manifest into genuine thankfulness over time.  In other words, act grateful in order to become grateful.  Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg did this in 2014, challenging himself to write one ‘thank you’ note a day as a way to counter his critical nature and express more gratitude.

Take time today to begin reflecting on the things which you are grateful for in your life.  As to the people whom you are grateful for, be sure to let them know.  You may just change the outlook of their day in the process.

Editor’s Note:  PEAK would like to express our gratitude to Jeremiah for sharing his talents with our organization and providing our members with professional development articles that are the perfect blend of educational and motivational.  We appreciate you, Jeremiah!

  Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications.  He is also the co-owner of Appalachian Digital, a website development agency.  You can contact Jeremiah at JeremiahSethClark@Outlook.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at Jeremiah Clark.