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Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and

to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your
advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a variety of things that can conjure positive feelings of appreciation, or
gratitude.

A well thought out Thank You, instead of a half-hearted, “Thanks,” often leaves
people feeling pretty good. Perhaps there was a moment that you can reflect on,
that involved strong feelings of gratitude?
Gratitude is an emotion similar to appreciation that most people are familiar with.
What many people do not know is that gratitude plays an important role in
several historical movements, and that gratitude is now becoming an important
part of psychology research, and especially positive psychology research.

Here is an overview of the recent research findings related to the study of


gratitude:

Well-being

Expressing your thanks can really improve your overall sense of well-being:
studies show that grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less
neurotic (McCullough et al., 2002; McCullough, Tsang, & Emmons, 2004; Wood,
Maltby, Gillett, Linley, & Joseph, 2008; Wood, Maltby, Stewart, Linley et al.,
2008). Furthermore, gratitude is related negatively to depression and positively to
life satisfaction (Wood, Joseph, & Maltby, 2008).

Relationships
Gratitude is also a powerful tool for strengthening interpersonal relationships.
People who express their gratitude tend to be more willing to forgive others and
less narcissistic (DeShea, 2003; Farwell & Wohlwend-Lloyd, 1998). Giving thanks
to those who have helped you strengthens your relationships and promotes
relationship formation and maintenance, as well as relationship connection and
satisfaction (Algoe et al., 2008; Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010)

Optimism

Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough have done extensive research into the effects of
gratitude practices. In one study in 2003 they found that after 10 weeks, the
people who had focused on gratitude in their lives, showed significantly more
optimism in many areas of their lives, including health and exercise.

Happiness

Toepfer, Cichy and Peters (2011) conducted a study where people were asked to
write and deliver a letter to someone for whom they were grateful. Right after
the task their the happiness levels and life satisfaction were dramatically
impacted even weeks later. In the pursuit of happiness and life satisfaction,
gratitude is showing a direct and long lasting effect thus the more gratitude we
experience the happier our lives will be.

Stronger Self Control

Self Control helps us to be disciplined and focused and to persist with what is
subjectively the most important for our long term well being. At some point we all
learn that even though we may want that big piece of chocolate cake with sugary
frosting and big glass of ice cold milk at 10pm, making that choice is going to have
consequences.
Self control comes into play in these moments and hopefully we make the better
choice for our long term health, financial future and wellbeing.

A study by DeSteno et al. in 2014 found that self control significantly increased
when subjects chose gratitude over happiness and feeling neutral. One of the
study’s authors, Professor Ye Li, said:

“Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce
impatience with a simple gratitude exercises opens up tremendous possibilities
for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient
saving to obesity and smoking.”

Just sit back and imagine the applications of this research. The potential for a
happier and healthier world may lie in a positive emotion as simple as gratitude.
Being thankful can give us the resolve we need to make better choices in our lives
and for the ones we love in the most significant ways.

Better Physical and Mental Health

Without our physical health we cannot truly experience and enjoy all

that life has to offer. Here,


yet again gratitude it playing a valuable role in influencing one of our most
fundamental human needs, that of health.

Recent research performed in 2015 showed that patients with heart failure, who
completed gratitude journals showed reduced inflammation, improved sleep and
better moods thus dramatically reducing their symptoms heart failure after only 8
weeks.
We all know there is a link between the mind and body and here is gratitude has a
double benefit! The feeling of appreciation when we are grateful, helps us to have
healthier minds and with that healthier bodies. It seems that gratitude it opening
yet another door into the world of health. What more could we ask for?

An Overall a Better Life

In researching Gratitude, Thankfulness, and Appreciation over the last 2 decades,


I feel very confident in saying that this practice significantly increases our overall
well being, happiness, and health and the evidence is there to prove it.

Now consider this quote from the Wall Street Journal’s article “Thank you, No,
Thank you.”

“…adults who feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social
connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies
conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious,
greedy or alcoholics.” – Melinda Beck

Aside from increasing well-being, psychology research has identified several other
positive outcomes that are a result of practicing gratitude. One of these positive
outcomes is that practicing gratitude (in this case, specifically gratitude towards a
higher power) can reduce levels of stress (Krause, 2006).

Another is that practicing gratitude can decrease levels of depression and anxiety
(Kashdan & Breen, 2007). Of course, having lower levels of stress, depression, and
anxiety may aid in having higher levels of well-being. If a major objective of
positive psychology is to increase levels of well-being, these findings show the
value of gratitude in positive psychology investigations.

The Effects of Gratitude

In a study by McCraty and colleagues (1998), 45 adults were taught to “cultivate


appreciation and other positive emotions”. The results of this study showed that
there was a mean 23% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol after the
intervention period.

Moreover, during the use of the techniques, 80% of the participants exhibited an
increased coherence in heart rate variability patterns, indicating reduced stress. In
other words, these findings suggest that people with an “attitude of gratitude”
experience lower levels of stress.

In another study by Seligman, Steen, and Peterson (2005), participants were given
one week to write and then deliver a letter of thanks in person to someone who
had been especially kind to them, but who had never been properly thanked. The
gratitude visit involves three basic steps:

1. First, think of someone who has done something important and wonderful
for you, yet who you feel you have not properly thanked.
2. Next, reflect on the benefits you received from this person, and write a
letter expressing your gratitude for all they have done for you.
3. Finally, arrange to deliver the letter personally, and spend some time with
this person talking about what you wrote.

The results showed that participants who engaged in the letter-writing


exercise reported more happiness for one month after the intervention compared
to a control group. Expressing gratitude not only helps you to appreciate what
you’ve received in life, it also helps you to feel that you’ve given something back
to those who helped you.

Hand-delivering a letter of thanks absolves you of any residual guilt you might feel
for not having thanked this person previously, and fosters a sincere, heartfelt
interaction that can really strengthen your relationship.
Social Effects of Gratitude

Gratitude can be observed at an individual level, with its subsequent effects, or at


a greater social level.

Research has shown that the practice of gratitude can create a greater social
circle of good.

The recipient of gratitude may not reciprocate directly back, but in turn, may lend
a favour to a third party, effectively expanding a network of good (Chang, Lin, &
Chen, 2011).

This research supports Fredrickson’s (2004a,b) broaden and build theory, which
posits expanding social networks, to build better social support. Effectively
gratitude can therefore create a social network which can help individuals both
advance (career, goals) and better cope in life.

Gratitude in Relationships

In a romantic relationship, both partners take actions to please the other one.
This can elicit several emotions such as gratitude and indebtedness.

Algoe et al. (2010) looked into these two emotions that are characterized as an
emotional response to a costly and intentionally provided benefit.

Also, gratitude and indebtedness are associated with the intention to repay for
the received benefit. Gratitude leads to an internal motivation, and indebtedness
to an external motivation to reciprocate.

Thoughtful actions
Algoe et al. (2010) asked sixty-seven couples to keep a diary for two weeks. The
participants had to record their own and their partner’s thoughtful actions, their
emotions, and their relationship well-being.

By coupling the data of the


two partners, they were able to see whether a thoughtful action of the
participant was recognized by the partner and if he or she acknowledged the
action accordingly.

Algoe et al. (2010) found that a partner’s thoughtful action predicted an increase
in feelings of gratitude and indebtedness.

However, only feeling gratitude, not indebtedness, on one day predicted an


increase in relationship well-being of the participant the next day.

When these feelings of gratitude are noticed by the partner, the relationship well-
being of the partner also increases.

Apply it to Your Life

This very evening, before you go to sleep, simply think of the positive things that
happened during the day; things that you are grateful for. Take a moment to do
this every night. It’s not a bad idea to keep a gratitude journal to reflect on later.

If you have children, take a moment with them before bed-time to ask them to
think about something they’re grateful for themselves. Don’t forget to set a good
example by sharing what you’re grateful for!
If you feel that you have neglected to thank someone for being especially kind or
helpful, don’t focus on feeling bad about it. Just write them a letter explaining
your gratitude and deliver it in person, if possible.

If you can’t deliver the letter in person, send it via post or email; whatever you do,
make sure you make the effort to reach out to the people who have helped you
along your path. Not only will this strengthen your relationships, it will actually
make you a happier person.
The Power of Showing Your Appreciation

William James, well-known psychologist and philosopher, said, “The deepest principle of human
nature is a craving to be appreciated.” If we are honest with ourselves, we all want and need to
feel valued for who we are and recognized for our contributions and accomplishments. It’s
important for us to know that we have made a difference in someone’s life.

If a person takes the time to express their heart-felt appreciation for something we have done, it
boosts our spirit, passion, and purpose. It builds our self-confidence, self-esteem and our entire
self-image. It gives us energy and motivation to work harder and do more.

Six benefits you can derive by showing your appreciation

1. When you give people a sincere compliment, words of encouragement or just a warm smile,
you are making their world a better place. You are making them feel appreciated and valuable.

2. When you express your approval or gratitude for something they have done, you will not only
enhance their lives, but you will enrich yours as well. You will feel more fulfilled because you
have done something to make someone else’s life better.

3. One of the laws of the universe states that what you give you get in return. It costs little or
nothing and it almost always follows suit that they will demonstrate their gratitude for what you
do.

4. When you show an interest in others by noticing the good things they’ve done, they will be
drawn to you like a magnet. It will accelerate the relationship building process and enhance their
overall impression of you.

5. It will increase your value to the market. When you show your appreciation to others, their
respect for you will grow and so will your influence as a leader. In today’s world people have
choices. They absolutely prefer to work with people they like and trust and who show an interest
in them.

6. It’s a free form of currency. People will do more for recognition than they will for money. If
you are in a leadership position, remember that people will work harder and do more if they
know they will be recognized for their accomplishments. Show them you care and they will be
loyal to you, even if better opportunities come their way.

Six Tips to Show Appreciation

1. Be genuine about your praise and don’t expect anything in return for being nice.

2. Be very specific with your words and use the person’s name whenever possible. This makes it
more meaningful. For example, “Bill, thanks for making us feel so welcome when we arrived at
the hotel. It was the perfect start to our vacation.”
3. Demonstrating eye contact and positive body language goes hand in hand with the words you
choose.

4. Think of special ways to show your gratitude. For example, buy flowers or do something
special for your spouse that you know he or she would love. You don’t have to spend a lot of
money for the thank-you to have value.

5. Send a hand written thank you card or note of appreciation. Most people don’t take the time
to do this simple act.

6. If the praise or appreciation relates to a specific act or circumstance, give it as soon after the
event as possible to have the most impact.

My challenge to you

I want to challenge you to make your expression of appreciation stand out from the crowd. Make
sure it is genuine and something that will make an impression. It will require more effort on your
part but it will be worth it.

While going the extra mile is admirable, don’t forget the simple little things we can do on a daily
basis to let people know they are appreciated. For every handwritten thank you note I write, I
probably send 30 emails thanking people for the little things they’ve done for me. For every gift
I buy for my wife, I probably tell her 50 times how much I appreciate all she does for me.

Make a list of those people who regularly do things for you, including your co-workers, friends,
family members and those who work under your leadership. When this list is complete, go back
over each name and determine how you can express your appreciation for the things they do for
you in a way that makes them feel noticed and valued.

Let me also encourage you to thank 100% of the people for 100% of the things they do to make
your life better, even if it’s part of their job description. Whether it’s the hostess who seats you
in a restaurant, a grocery clerk who scans and bags your groceries, a hotel bellman or a co-
worker, everyone deserves to be thanked. Begin to adopt an attitude of gratitude!

“Three billion people on the face of the earth go to bed hungry every night, but four billion
people go to bed every night hungry for a simple word of encouragement and recognition.”
-Author Robert Cavett