Why and how Gratitude works – not only backed by science
It was one of those office days, like so many others. Completely lost in thought, I went to the coffee machine in between two meetings to get myself a fresh latte. Once there, a catering employee was cleaning the machine. A quick glance at the clock showed that I had enough time to just wait out the moment and then take my coffee with me. I struck up a conversation with the woman and ended up thanking her for doing this work for all of us, every day, so that we could always get fresh coffee at the touch of a button. That’s when she paused for a moment, looked at me and said, “I’ve been working here for three years, and you’re the second person to say that to me.” For a moment, we were both touched and moved – and it became clear to me once again, how important it is for all of us to ‘be seen’ and appreciated for what we do. And what wonderful moments arise when we appreciate others for what they mean to us in life or what they do – even if it seems quite natural to us.
And I can tell you that this is not an observation only from myself. On the contrary, science has conducted numerous interesting studies on the question of what being grateful does to us or expressing gratitude and appreciation to others.
A study from Harvard Medical School found that when appreciation is displayed and communicated, people rise in three areas: feeling valued, strengthening emotional connections, and personal loyalty. And in another study from Gallup the researchers found that the number one reason people quit their jobs is due to lack of recognition and appreciation. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at University of California Riverside and the New York Times bestselling author of ‘The How of Happiness’, could clearly demonstrate in her research that cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ makes us happier. The list of factors she found increasing our happiness has gratitude in the first place!
Don’t know how that should really work? Sonja Lyubomirsky names eight ways how gratitude may boost YOUR happiness:
- Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences.
- Expressing gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
- Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
- The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior.
- Gratitude can help build social bonds, strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones.
- Expressing gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others.
- The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.
- Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation.
But how can I practice that? I encourage you to just give it a try and start with a gratitude practice of your choice today. You may want to try out one of the following:
- Stop for a moment, take a mindful breath, and appreciate what is there in your life: people, things, health, emotions,….. This can also be combined with the Moment to Arrive.
- Start journaling and practice self-reflection with prompts such as ‘I am grateful for…..”, ‘Who I am grateful for in my life is…..’, “Being appreciated means to me…..’
- Start a gratitude journal by writing down three things your are grateful for each day, no matter if they are big or small. This will impact your ability to see even more positive things in your life you will be grateful for. And doing it before you go to bed at night has a positive impact on your sleep quality. Check-out this page for more background and guidance.
- Greet the person at the checkout in the supermarket, the bus driver on your way home or the cleaning personnel and thank them for what they do 🙂
Practicing gratitude and appreciating others doesn’t mean to see the whole world only positive and neglect any negative experiences and emotions. And it is also not silver lining them. But it supports us to balance the negativity bias we have in our brain that results from evolution. We tend to see what is not working and has not been perfect or might be a differentiator between us and others somehow (comparison). So why not strengthen the positive via gratitude practices and appreciation to balance this given imbalance?!
Now, thank yourself that you have taken the time to read through this blog getting inspired to bring more gratitude and appreciation in your life. If you are interested in more insights into Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness, check out the Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence in SAP Community or Mindfulness on www.sap.com.
And in case you have a moment, leave us a comment telling us what you appreciate in your life, in this moment, whatever comes to your mind 🙂