If attitude is everything, then gratitude is the ultimate attitude adjustment.
Take John, for example, a manager with a software firm. Though John recalls being enthusiastic about his job during his first year in the position, he now questions why he comes to work each day. He feels pressed and harried by his staff, and helpless to motivate them. John feels stressed and unappreciated in his career, but is careful to conceal his emotions in order to appear cool and objective.
Julie's office is right across the hall from John's, and as he observes Julie's contagious enthusiasm, he wonders how she's kept it recharged year after year. Julie seems to have a way of raising the spirits of subordinates and associates alike. Her energy appears boundless. Julie communicates openly, showing patience and empathy. Staff leave her office looking uplifted, and exude confidence in meeting challenges and deadlines. John wishes he could get his staff to apply themselves as well as Julie's do, and wonders what her secret is.
The psychology of being grateful
Julie's secret is an attitude of gratitude. Since 2000, psychologists have conducted numerous studies on the effect and benefits of gratitude. Gratitude is a very powerful and often overlooked emotion. When we live in a state of gratefulness we constantly receive more things to be grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful force which instantly begins propelling us forward toward happiness, success and health. Once established as a force within us, our gratitude naturally begins radiating toward others.
Here are three simple methods you can use to quickly become grounded in gratefulness, and continue to increase and refresh your inner gratitude force throughout the day.
• Make a mental gratitude list in the moment. Visualize all the things you're grateful for. Take a deep breath and acknowledge gratitude for the air you're breathing, the lung capacity you have and the oxygen to your brain and bloodstream. Look around you, and experience gratitude for your eyesight, the view you're taking in and your brain's power to process the image. Allow yourself to luxuriate in the feeling of joy and peace that comes from living in the moment, knowing that the future holds promise for you.
• Create a written gratitude list to read aloud to yourself daily. Begin by recording at least 10 things for which you are grateful. Read the list at least once during your business day. Take time to celebrate each entry with a feeling of exultation—you are thrilled that you have received, or will receive, this wonderful supervisor, business opportunity, creative concept, material acquisition, inspiration, talent, etc., in your life. Your list may contain items as simple as a good cup of coffee or as wondrous as a spectacular sunset. As you read and contemplate your list, notice how you begin to be inspired to reciprocate by sharing with others.
• Give of yourself and express your gratitude to others. This step is essential in completing the gratitude cycle. As you begin to acknowledge all that you have, you come to recognize that everything in life, particularly that which is challenging, is a gift. Consciously celebrate each gift, and out of your resulting joy will come a desire to pay it forward.
For example, increase your expressions of gratitude. Instead of simply saying "thank you" to an associate or subordinate, take time to give them a genuine, specific recognition of their value to you. Acknowledge someone of lesser status with appropriate and sincere respect. Listening is a powerful way of giving, and it boosts the self-esteem of the person we are listening to, if we are fully attentive.
It is an enriching experience when you devote yourselves to discovering how much appreciation and gratitude can be packed into in a given moment. Try living as if everything, even the tiniest thing, is a miracle, and watch your gratitude bubble over.
Marti MacGibbon, CADC II, ACRPS, is a certified mental health professional, inspirational motivational speaker, veteran standup comic, author and member of the National Speakers Association. Her memoir, "Never Give in to Fear," is available on Amazon.com and through her website, www.nevergiveintofear.com. For more information, call 310-210-4674.