What are you thankful for? If you’re not making time on a regular basis to ask yourself that important question, you’re missing out on some incredible benefits that can help you be a better leader, spouse and parent. Turns out, there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that gratitude can help your brain function better and help you achieve a long-lasting and more positive mood, according to Harvard Medical School. Gratitude can lead to a whole host of additional benefits, including higher-quality and stronger relationships in your business and personal life.
Researcher Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, discovered that writing and personally delivering a letter or thanking someone verbally for their kindness to you can have a dramatic effect on not only your own mood but your overall happiness. Other research shows similar benefits when you verbally express gratitude. Showing your employees gratitude — verbally, in an e-mail or in person — can help you develop strong bonds with those who work for you and motivate them to succeed. Turns out, showing gratitude is an important element in effective leadership.
Think of gratitude as an emotional muscle you need to build as you build your physical muscles with exercise. Psychologists Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami discovered incredible benefits to writing down what you have to be thankful for on at least a weekly basis. The researchers asked groups of people to write a few sentences each week. One group focused on what they had to be thankful for, a second group focused on annoying things that had happened throughout the week and a third group was asked to simply write about things that happened during the week — good or bad. Those who were asked to write about what they had to be thankful for after 10 weeks were more optimistic, exercised more and felt better about their lives. Surprised?
Other studies suggest that expressing gratitude to others can help you make new friends, develop closer relationships with your family members, be a better boss and retain important clients and customers. Embracing gratitude isn’t as tough as you may think. Try keeping a small notebook and spend a few minutes every few days jotting down what you have to be thankful for. Make sure to regularly communicate your gratitude — in e-mails, letters and in face-to-face interactions. Think about the most important people in your life. When was the last time you thanked them for their love, kindness, support or hard work? Do it today. Your brain will thank you for it.