Pausing for the purpose of giving thanks is built into our national culture, even recognized as a national holiday. While it can be easy to let rituals of thanksgiving slide by on a superficial level, making a habit of gratitude actually supports wellbeing when it extends beyond the surface. A true expression of appreciation can be deeply meaningful, cushioning the challenges that can arise when relationship becomes difficult.
There is a reason why gratitude is embedded in spiritual and religious practice, and an argument can be made for consciously cultivating it in our daily lives. It turns out that counting our blessings is good for us, both as individuals and as part of the larger systems to which we belong.
In giving thanks for what we appreciate, we cultivate a metaskill which permeates and reinforces the systems we serve.
If you’ve been paying attention to the research around gratitude, you are already aware of the myriad benefits which accompany it - better health, refreshed sleep, positive mood, stronger relationships and more happiness.
Gratitude is in itself a bolster against cynicism, strengthening connection with ourselves and others. It sustains relationship in the midst of difficulty, and supports systems navigating disruption and change.
In an article for Greater Good Magazine, Joshua Brown and Joel Wong write that gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions, benefits us over time even when we don’t directly share our feelings of appreciation, and has lasting effects on the brain.
Authentic gratitude shifts the focus. It jolts us out of our natural tendency to concentrate on what might be wrong, so that we can acknowledge what is going well. In his research on successful partnerships, psychologist John Gottman suggests that a ratio of five positives to one negative interaction is key. By practicing gratitude, you are injecting positivity into your system’s feedback loop. Research in corporations suggests this ratio might be even higher in a workplace environment.
What happens when employees feel appreciated? In a 2019 report, the Global Happiness Council estimated that a “meaningful increase in well-being” is associated with a 10% increase in productivity.
Tips for Expressing Appreciation
According to author Daniel Pink, being valued is the cement of relationship. Pink observes that making ‘gratitude visits’ can inspire similar action, encouraging others to “make their own pilgrimage …. resulting in a daisy chain of gratitude and contentment.”
Imagine the effect of authentic gratitude rippling out across a system. If you’ve never considered making a habit of gratitude, perhaps now is the time to begin.
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