Giving thanks year-round can lift your spirits now and throughout the year. Because while the beginning of the holiday season is joyful to many, it can jumpstart a season of anxiety and sadness for others. Expressing gratitude and focusing on the goodness in your life increases positive emotions, improves your health, builds strong relationships and ups your ability to deal with life challenges. And it’s not just your grandma who says this — research proves it.
After the untimely death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg spoke at UC Berkeley’s commencement. She said, “People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings.”
But when it comes to being a better leader or teammate, gratitude has benefits to go beyond feeling good or improving relationships. There are other proven reasons that make giving thanks worth considering.
In an article in Forbes, Marian Illich said that gratitude is most effective when it leads to joy, a fundamental leadership competency. Illich is an executive coach and leadership consultant, and former professor of religion at NYU, Columbia and Barnard College. Joy energizes, galvanizes and motivates others. It’s infectious. When you’re joyful, others can’t help being so, too.
In another example, being thanked for their team’s efforts motivated Wharton School fundraisers to make 50% more fund-raising calls than those who were not thanked. Whether you’re an employee, customer, vendor or colleague, we all want to be appreciated and thanked. A simple act of appreciation for someone else can go a long way.
Gratitude builds a larger, more diverse network
According to a 2104 study published in Emotion, showing appreciation can also help you make new friends. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more willing to have an ongoing relationship. Research shows that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger — something that might be kindled with a simple thank you.
Gratitude leads to innovation
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears,” >writes Kristopher Jones in Forbes. Jones is founder of a digital marketing agency and mobile app developer. “Because you can’t be angry or fearful while being grateful, that spark that prompts you to take action and achieve your full potential takes effect.”
When you’re continually stressed, your mind doesn’t have time to rest and rejuvenate. To protect itself, the mind shuts down, preventing new thoughts, creativity and new connections to people. Those connections can also lead to new ideas, said Illich. When stressed, you’re less discriminating and often make poor decisions about where you should go for support. Gratitude is one way to move out of this pattern, Illich continued.
Gratitude and happiness are connected
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness,” according to Harvard Health Publication. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.”
Gratitude isn’t difficult
Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be time-consuming. An article in Harvard Health Publication cites some easy, common-sense ways to cultivate a practice of gratitude:
- write thank you notes
- thank someone mentally
- keep a gratitude journal
- count your blessings
- pray or meditate
So don’t just give thanks once a year on Thanksgiving. Do it every day. It can be a powerful tool for motivating, innovating, expanding your network and increasing your happiness.