It’s been another challenging year, with a lot of uncertainty. As we head toward Thanksgiving, it’s an opportunity to pause, reflect, and focus our attention on appreciation - to acknowledge the people who enrich our lives and the experiences that have induced us to grow and learn. It's a time to give thanks to the people and experiences that have supported us, made us laugh, and lightened our loads.
Gratitude Can Improve Our Relationships
There is growing research literature on the relationship between gratitude and well-being. Focusing on and appreciating even momentary enjoyment—the colors of a sunset, a piece of music—can enhance our daily lives. When we convey our gratitude to people in our lives, the act fosters a gratitude mind-set within ourselves and potentially deepens those relationships (and makes the other people feel good—a gift we give them).
Writing a “gratitude letter” to a family member, friend, or colleague serves that dual purpose—it makes us feel good as well as the recipient. Keeping a gratitude journal can even have a positive effect on working relationships.
One study of 200 workers asked participants to write in a journal at the end of each workday detailing what they were grateful for and why:
“'Try to think about the many things in your job/work, both large and small, for which you are grateful…These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities at work, or thankfulness for the opportunity to have your job in general.'”
Two weeks later, participants reported fewer disrespectful behaviors, such as being rude, exclusionary, or gossiping. Even texting thank you can have a positive impact.
Gratitude Can Improve Our Mind-Set
Gratitude activities (like a journal or letter) focus attention and awareness on the positive aspects of and relationships in our lives. They cultivate a particular mind-set towards ourselves and the world. When we do these things regularly, we can develop a habit of noticing things for which we can be grateful.
This mental habit then helps us see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty; or, it may even change how much is in the glass that we didn’t notice! This is not to say that we become blind to the adverse things that happen to us. Rather, it’s that a gratitude approach helps us bear those things more effectively.