The Fuel Of Gratitude

Gratitude.  You have heard it before--it’s important, even helpful.  Perhaps, you have even felt it-the warm rush after doing a kind act or sharing a kind word with a friend or even a stranger.  But, fuel?!?  And, if it’s fuel, can it add value to not only one's personal life, but one's professional life as well? 

Gratitude is a place of readiness.  An active state that supports us like ripe fruit in a hungry belly.   Hunger is not compartmentalized to a specific aspect of one’s life.  In fact, it affects every aspect-personal and professional.

Gratitude comes from having positive emotions in relation to something or someone.  Those emotions are neural processes that control attitudes and behaviors.  Through positive emotions, your system releases the chemical Dopamine that provides clarity for immediate objectives while also allowing a person to feel more energetic and elated.   This results in the ability to face problems effectively, cope better with transition as well as create a better attitude and overall health.

But how do we get there?

Ultimately, to feel gratitude, the good feelings have to be stronger than the negative ones.  This is a choice of your rational brain.  It is an informed assessment by your mind that, despite problems or issues, life is a treasure and is worth living. 

We are not free from problems.  Some people are burdened by more troubles that others.  And yet it is one’s attitude about life that colors their existence.  It is our emotional responses that create our troubles, not the world.

In a 2003 research project on gratitude and thankfulness by Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis and Michael McCullough at the University of Miami, they found that those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.  In fact, a related benefit was observed in the area of personal goals: those who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

The “Big So-What” is that gratitude is the sweet spot for our bodies, minds and hearts.  It doesn’t compartmentalize in only one aspect of our life but can impact all of it in positive and amazing ways.  The practice of gratitude is not a denial of life’s problems, whether personal or professional.  It simply offers you a turning of your mind that allows you to lean into life.  That turning is simply powerful.

The following are a couple ways to approach the practice of gratitude and allow it to energize you:

Start a gratitude journal by capturing three things a day that you are grateful for in all aspects of your life.  If you are feeling a bit low in the professional side of your life, focus there and look for the places of interdependence that have supported you or that you have supported others.  Then sit with that memory and, let it “feed” you through the memory of the event, action or thing

When you are about to enter a stressful situation, place yourself mentally into a place of gratitude.  Focus on what you can be grateful for in the immediate situation or in your life specifically that you carry as you walk into the situation.  Don’t be afraid to be playful or humorous, but be authentic.  Use the link below to connect you to a quick 4 minute meditation starter to support you in this process.

Practicing gratitude is a simple approach that you can use always…in meetings, on the subway and at home that will help you access the joy in life.  Gratitude lets you simply meet life, from the boardroom to the bedroom, in each moment as it arises.

Check out the Gratitude Meditation below to help support your forward movement!