‘Tis the season of thankfulness and that, along with a recent client project, has me thinking about gratitude!
A few weeks ago we were engaged at a big National Meeting teaching some elective sessions for our client. My room’s topic was “Leading with Emotional Intelligence in Times of Stress”.
The content is some of my favorite to teach because everyone has stress in some aspect of their life. Likely, at some point, this stress has caused us to react in a way that we aren’t proud of, or don’t even know why we “lashed out” in that particular moment. When we are super stressed, how in the world do we use that Emotional Intelligence we know exists and that we’ve shown before? Just try harder? That seems daunting at a minimum…
The good news is that there are definitely some strategies we can leverage to reduce stress and build and practice emotional intelligence.
One of the things we discuss in the workshop is the impact of gratitude in reducing stress and helping us move from a place of reacting to responding. Gratitude can enable us to use the emotional intelligence that exists within each of us, but is not always leveraged or shown.
This UC Davis Study provides some compelling scientific evidence for why we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28 percent) and depression (16 percent) in health-care practitioners
Gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol).
The research also states that a daily gratitude practice is found to reduce blood pressure and generally improve heart health, immune function and better sleep. In our world of increasing stress related illnesses, good heart health, immune function, and sleep sounds quite appealing. Not to mention the comparison trap between your own “haves” and accomplishments and those of others is increasingly obvious and public, which provides some additional emotional distress. It is interesting and important to note that you cannot be both envious and grateful at the same time. Gratitude can protect you from many emotional and health concerns!
Thanksgiving in the United States is an annual opportunity to reflect, and say some “Thank You’s” and “I’m grateful for…” but here at Riverbend, we try to make that a daily practice. We leverage our own organizational gratitude practice for many reasons (including the compelling scientific evidence from UC Davis and UC Berkley’s Greater Good initiative)!
We start meetings with gratefulness, thanking each other for support, grace in a stressful time, ideas and solutions, or for a job well done. Additionally, being grateful for our community of colleagues is a practice which keeps us grounded, supports our core values, and builds relationship and appreciation. For many people, words of appreciation and gratitude are a motivating factor in the work place. Saying thank you to someone or expressing gratitude lifts you both. The giver receives a health boost and the receiver gets the motivational boost of knowing they are valued and appreciated. So..how about gratitude for improving organizational health and productivity – both literally and figuratively!?
Adam Grant’s ground breaking research in his book Give and Take illuminates this same principle. He states that those who give generously and are grateful for what they have, sharing with others their thankfulness and appreciation as well as any tangible help they can offer – are happier, live longer, and are more successful. We think this goes for organizations as well so we cultivate an attitude of gratitude that builds our spirit of generosity. This, in turn, makes each of us healthier, more motivated, more successful, more productive, and more engaged… and therefore, just generally happier!
I may recommend that as we leave Thanksgiving and approach the New Year and season of setting goals for 2019, that we renew our commitment to a daily gratitude practice and include it in our resolutions and plans for the new year and see where it takes us in 2019.
Something for your Christmas List to propel you in this initiative is the Happiness Project 5 Year Journal. This practice has been part of my evening routine for about 18 months and I strongly encourage it. I particularly like being able to look back and see where I was a year ago, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Having the historical record can sometimes double my gratitude for my current day or help me acknowledge the growth and learning’s that have come through the harder times. Here’s some additional advice on how to approach a gratitude journal if you wish to incorporate it into your existing routine or journaling practice.