Leaders: Why gratitude matters

It was a birthday week last week.  And yes – I am happy to admit –despite the passing years; I stretch it out and lap it up like I was still in my teens!  A day is far too short to do birthdays any justice, don’t you think?

More seriously, this time it hit me that birthdays are only made special because of our loving family and friends. Their warm wishes are like a wrapping of love. It made me feel like the perfect gift.  As my heart expanded, I was able to extend these feelings of appreciation and gratitude back to them. I was also left questioning how most of our days we madly rush around, rarely savouring or letting in the gift that our loved ones are to us.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Psychology Professor and author of Positivity, true gratitude is heartfelt and unscripted, not mindless manners or tit for tat reciprocity.  The film and social movement Pay it forward is a great example of gratitude in action.

Gratitude is one of the essential pillars of positive psychology.   It has a direct hit on our feelings of positivity and well-being. Research shows that people, who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being are less stressed, less depressed and are more satisfied with their lives and relationships.  Our resourcefulness and capacity also expands when we are in a more positive frame of mind and we are better able to deal with life transitions.

Gratitude researchers have found that the simple exercise of writing down three positive things that happened to us in our day increases our happiness scores. In fact, why don’t you try this?  Every night when you go to bed, let your mind wonder and identify three things that you feel grateful for that day.  Notice how you feel by the end of the week.  One thing I have noted is when I am feeling out of sorts and or somewhat crabby, invariably my focus would have slowly shifted to what is incomplete and unresolved or basically “what isn’t working well.”  The feelings of gratitude – low.

As Albert Schweitzer put it, “at times our own light goes out and is re-kindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

So treasure the unexpected, heartfelt gratitude that comes your way and be willing to share and pay it forward – whether it is your family, friends, peers, direct reports, manager or a stranger.

Jasbindar Singh is  business psychologist who loves helping her clients achieve their goals and lead  meaningful and  fulfilling lives.

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