Robert Emmons is considered the world’s leading expert on gratitude. He defines gratitude as an affirmation of goodness from an external source.
In his essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good” he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that goodness comes from an external source. This could be anyone: strangers, friends, family or even a higher power.
Gratitude must not only be limited to the individuals we know. It must also not be confined to a single period of time.
So often, we wait for big events to happen to express gratitude. For instance, when someone close to you passes away, you might reflect on why you were grateful to have them in your life, or tell yourself you’ll start appreciating life more.
And some people only express gratitude and gratefulness on Thanksgiving. That time of year when you have Thanksgiving dinner with your friends and family and you go around the table saying what everyone is grateful for.
Ralph Waldo Emerson however, once wrote about giving thanks continuously despite adversity. About cultivating the attitude of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you.
Since everything ultimately works to our good and advancement, we should strive to give thanks continuously, not just once or twice a year.
So how about being grateful right now?
Say thank you to the doorman in your building, or the mail man bringing the mail to your porch. Try recalling the people, acts and things you should be grateful for everyday. However, it is great that there is a day set aside for giving thanks, as it brings about the same benefits.
Positive psychology research, which studies positive emotions, lists gratitude as a positive emotion. This means that gratitude is not only saying thanks for that gift or help given, it is actually an emotion. An emotion of feeling appreciative to someone or for something.
We recognize that someone has gone out of their way and done something for us. We feel thankful to them and appreciate their actions.
Appreciating other people’s goodness can have a multitude of benefits. These benefits could be emotional, health related, mental, physical or even work related.
In case you’re wondering about how much of a positive impact being grateful can have on your life, here are some of the benefits, and the power of gratitude:
Gratitude Creates Happiness
Some people express gratitude simply because it gives them a good feeling—happiness.
They are satisfied and happy with their actions. They go to sleep with positive thoughts of what they did. They feel fulfilled and are at peace at the end of the day.
Gratitude makes you feel good because it alleviates some of the negative emotions you might have. Emotions such as guilt or envy resulting from wronging a friend or letting them down.
Let’s say you fail to attend your best friend’s birthday get together, feel guilty and want to make it up to her. Taking her out for a compensatory drink and dancing away the night, will lift your guilt after you have fun.
Gratitude acts as a coping mechanism and lets you bounce back from such stressful situations. Individuals feel good and happy when they bounce back by giving a gift or a helping hand to the friend they let down.
Gratitude Leads to Better Relationships
When you express gratitude, people around you are bound to view you as a more caring person. Someone they can build a friendship with and grow to trust them.
Research has shown that gratitude gives people a sense of agreeableness and openness to their nature. This usually results in the formation of new relationships and friendships, and improving existing ones.
In both relationships and friendships, both individuals feel connected, satisfied and recognized when they experience gratitude.
Gratitude Improves Your Health
The mind and body are connected. A healthy mind is a healthy body. A healthy mind full of positive emotions like gratitude leads to a healthy body.
When you express gratitude, you experience less stress, depression and better wellbeing. You are more optimistic and prove to be less self-centered, and therefore more altruistic and willing to help others.
You sleep better since you feel happy as you go to bed relaxed and with memories of happier times and good deeds done.
It spurs you on to do the same for others. Experiencing altruistic acts equally brings about feelings of being valued, accepted and loved by family, friends or even strangers. This promotes an individual’s psychological wellbeing.
Gratitude Improves Your Professional Life
Gratitude doesn’t only improve your personal life. It can improve your professional life as well.
No matter where you are in your career, learning to express gratitude can be beneficial. For instance, saying thank you to the intern who brought you coffee in the morning makes them feel appreciated and it might motivate them to compliment your pleasantness around other coworkers which builds your reputation.
If you have people who work underneath you, employee performance increases in the workplace when gratitude is shown. It is proven that expressing gratitude motivates employees to maintain or improve their performance.
Gratitude leads to better management and ultimately increased productivity in the workplace. This is because humans are more likely to repeat a behavior after they get praised and thanked for a job well done. Furthermore, the employees are motivated to do extra and receive more gratitude and praise from management.
Gratitude Creates a Better world
Gratitude sets off a certain chain of events. Once somebody expresses their gratitude, it motivates and energizes the recipient to return the favor to them or a stranger.
It’s known as the gratitude network.
The best part about gratitude is the feeling of a reciprocating duty. People want to return the favors to those who did them good. They want to carry forward the acts of goodness showed to them by other people.
However, be aware that gratitude does not mean that you are indebted to someone. It is simply an altruistic act that requires no repayment from those you helped or those who helped you.
Cease with the condemnation and ungratefulness. The most common detriment is thanklessness. Individuals who know it would be great to say thank you but they just do not want to.
They want to assume that the act is expected of the other person so they are not indebted to them. Gratitude is however just but an altruistic act that is selfless.
It is an unconditional thank you, recognizing other peoples acts and not expecting anything in return. So how about you cultivate that grateful attitude?
Start with the small things. Be grateful for having a good day. Be grateful that you were able to pay your mortgage. How about saying thank you to that smiling waiter who brought you extra napkins.
Write your own thank you notes in a personal and purposeful way.
Have a thank you journal or thank you tin. It helps you remember the things you should be grateful for and it’s easy to start. Just get an old tin and colorful sticky notes. Write the things you are grateful for and put them in that tin. Open that tin on Thanksgiving Day or on New Year’s Eve and see how great the year was. You’ll feel so happy and fulfilled.