The power of gratitude is often underestimated. Many of us were taught to think of gratitude as a synonym for optimism. We treat it as a luxury to indulge in on special occasions like Thanksgiving or during the holidays.
In practice, gratitude is more similar to adaptability – it is an empowering habit that enables us to face challenges head-on and turn them into opportunities. That’s why in our careers and our personal lives, practicing gratitude as a daily habit is a highly strategic choice.
Money doesn’t buy happiness but counting our blessings might. Research published by the University of California Berkeley found promising evidence that practicing gratitude daily is a powerful predictor of happiness and a strong defense against depression and anxiety. In a study involving roughly 300 adults, researchers tested the impact of writing gratitude letters on participants’ mental health. Randomly selected participants were asked to write one letter of gratitude a week, while other participants were asked to write about their negative experiences or to write nothing at all.
The results found that writing letters of gratitude demonstrated clear long-term benefits. In addition to reducing short-term negative emotions, researchers that were practicing gratitude had lasting impacts on the brain. In other words, practicing gratitude as a habit can quite literally rewire our brains, predisposing us to live happier lives.
In our careers, gratitude is similarly empowering. Work-life is often frustrating – team members fall short, deadlines get missed, and hard work goes unappreciated. It can be easy to focus on the negative. Gratitude offers us a path forward. By counting our blessings, we do more than improve our mental health – we identify our resources. What tools are still at our disposal? Who can we reach out to for support?
Try this now. Close your eyes and consider the situation at work that’s most bothering you. What aspect of it are you most grateful for? It could be the time you’re spending with a teammate, a skill you are honing, or even lessons you might learn; there is always something to be grateful for. By focusing on those positives, you’ll begin to cultivate a more resilient, positive attitude. As a product of focusing on the positives, you’ll start to show gratitude and appreciation in all parts of your life consistently for the big and small things.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the power of this attitude in action. Restaurants and caterers converted themselves into cloud kitchens capable of delivering meals in a socially distanced world. Businesses operating remotely globalized their staff and their clients. Medical researchers and enterprises have dramatically improved telemedicine services. Under challenging circumstances, the grateful have found ways to innovate and improve the world around them.
There’s no doubt that challenges still lie ahead of us, even after 2020 ends. Choosing gratitude may not change your circumstances, but it can have an immense impact on your trajectory. Choose to make gratitude a habit. Start a gratitude journal, write a thank you letter, or simply count your blessings. You’ll find that gratitude gives you a lot to be thankful for.