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Gratitude in Life & Leadership: The Resource for Driving Growth

Gratitude, a universally acknowledged virtue, transcends cultures, religions, and traditions. It's a complex emotion with varying definitions and profound implications for mental and physical health. This article delves into the multifaceted nature of gratitude, exploring its definitions, scientific research highlighting its benefits, and practical strategies for its cultivation.


This article was originally published on Arete Coach and has been re-written and approved for placement by Arete Coach on ePraxis. Scroll to continue reading or click here to read the original article.


Defining gratitude

In Episode #1106 of the Arete Coach Podcast, we learn that gratitude is not a one-dimensional concept. Philosophers like Cicero and Zig Ziglar describe it as the mother of all virtues. UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center identifies three levels of gratitude: affective (a disposition towards gratitude), mood (an emotional inclination lasting days or weeks), and emotion (a short-term response to events). It's a recognition of goodness and its external sources, an acknowledgment that life's blessings often stem from beyond ourselves.


The science behind gratitude

Research consistently shows gratitude's positive impact on both mental and physical well-being. Benefits include strengthened community ties, enhanced interpersonal relationships, increased happiness, reduced stress-related illnesses, and improved physical health. Regular gratitude practice can rewire the brain, enhancing our capacity to appreciate and express gratitude. Below are some of the benefits discussed in Episode #1153 of the Arete Coach Podcast, "Harvesting Thankfulness: Unpacking the History and Science of Gratitude.”


Mental health benefits

  • Stronger bond with the local community: Enhanced sense of community connection.

  • More satisfying relationships: Improvement in the quality of personal relationships.

  • Increased likability: Being better liked by peers.

  • Increased optimism: A more positive outlook on life.

  • Greater life satisfaction: A heightened sense of fulfillment and contentment.

  • Increased wellbeing: Overall improvement in mental and emotional health.

  • Increased happiness: Elevated levels of joy and contentment.

  • Decreased levels of depressive symptoms: Reduction in symptoms associated with depression.

  • Decreased use of negative emotional words: Less frequent use of negative language in expressing emotions.

  • Increased overall mental health: General improvement in mental health status.

  • Reduced feelings of loneliness: A decrease in feelings of isolation.

  • Increased social bonds: Stronger connections with others.

  • Increased social desirability: Being more socially appealing.

  • Increased perception of social support: Feeling more supported by others.

  • Reduced stress: Lower levels of stress.

  • Reduced anxiety: Decrease in feelings of anxiety.

Physical health benefits

  • Reduction in illnesses caused by stress (10% fewer stress-related illnesses)

  • Improved blood pressure: Better cardiovascular health.

  • Improved eating behaviors: Healthier eating habits.

  • Improved glycemic control: Better blood sugar management.

  • Increased control over asthma: Improvement in asthma management.

  • Increased helping behaviors: More likely to assist others.

  • Improved physical health: Overall enhancement in physical well-being.

  • Reduced fatigue: Less experience of tiredness and exhaustion.

  • Improved heart health: Better cardiac function.

  • Reduced inflammation: Decrease in bodily inflammation.

Strategies for cultivating gratitude

Developing gratitude is a journey that integrates various practices into our daily routines. These practices, rooted in both age-old wisdom and contemporary research, offer a diverse array of methods to cultivate a deeper sense of thankfulness in our lives. Below are a few examples of how you can integrate gratitude into your daily routine.

  • Gratitude journaling: Documenting daily gratitude boosts optimism and overall well-being (Emmons, 2003).

  • Expressing gratitude: Writing and delivering letters of gratitude enhances happiness and reduces depressive symptoms (Seligman, 2005).

  • Savoring habits: Savoring daily pleasures heightens gratitude (PositivePsychology.com, 2019).

  • Gratitude jar: Documenting gratitude serves as a visual reminder of daily blessings.

  • Gratitude prompts: Specific prompts can help in recognizing diverse aspects of life to be thankful for.

  • Gratitude walks: Integrating exercise with gratitude practice allows for greater mindfulness and appreciation.

  • Gratitude collage: Creating a visual compilation of thankful moments helps to surface feelings of gratitude.

  • Mindfulness and gratitude: Mindful.org emphasizes mindfulness exercises to enhance gratitude awareness (Domet, 2016).

The business perspective on gratitude

Gratitude isn't just a personal virtue; it's a professional asset. Business leaders benefit from gratitude through increased employee engagement, resilience, and goal achievement. Companies like Campbell Soup have exemplified this (with CEO Douglas Conant writing 30,000 personal gratitude notes), ultimately fostering a positive organizational culture. Consider the following:

  • According to a Harvard study, Managers who make it a point to express gratitude to their team members often discover that such acknowledgments significantly boost employee motivation, effort, and dedication at work (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021).

  • According to the American Psychological Association, an overwhelming majority of employees, precisely 93 percent, expressed that when they feel valued, it serves as a powerful motivator to give their best effort at work. Additionally, 88 percent of these individuals reported a heightened sense of engagement in their tasks (American Psychological Association, 2012).

  • In the "Handbook of Position Emotions," research has established a strong connection between gratitude and the cultivation of healthy interpersonal relationships across various contexts (Ahrens, 2014). This research underscores the role of gratitude in fostering enduring relationships that have the potential to unlock new opportunities.

The main takeaway

Gratitude is more than a feeling; it's a practice with far-reaching implications. Its cultivation can lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life and a more harmonious workplace. By integrating gratitude into our daily lives, we can enhance our well-being and positively influence those around us.


References

Ahrens, A. H., & Forbes, C. N. (2014). Gratitude. In M. M. Tugade, M. N. Shiota, & L. D. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of positive emotions (pp. 342–361). The Guilford Press.


American Psychological Association. (2012). APA Survey Finds Feeling Valued at Work Linked to Well-Being and Performance. Https://Www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/well-being


Domet, S. (2016, November 13). A Simple Mindful Gratitude Exercise. Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/a-simple-mindful-gratitude-exercise/.


Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377.


Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 14). Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier


PositivePsychology.com. (2019). 3 Gratitude Exercises for Helping Professionals.


Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.60.5.410.


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