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Expressing Gratitude Is More Than Saying Thank You

Gratitude is many things to many people. It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking at the bright side of things; it is abundance; it is thanking someone; it is "counting blessings." It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented. The average person often associates gratitude with saying thank you for something they received or a kind gesture. However, gratitude is much broader. I invite you to consider its numerous benefits and how you can regularly incorporate the practice of gratitude in your life.

Practicing gratitude can easily transform the way you think and feel about your life. In fact, it is a tool for happiness that has been causally linked to emotional, relational, and physical benefits. Those who are consistently grateful have been found to be more optimistic and satisfied with their lives, happier, more energetic, more hopeful, more helpful and empathic, more forgiving, and they report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. Furthermore, the more a person is inclined to practice gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, fearful, lonely, or jealous and more likely he or she is to experience greater self-worth and self-esteem. Gratitude can also help build social bonds by strengthening existing relationships and nurturing new ones. Not only are there emotional and relational benefits to gratitude, physical health is also elevated through the act of gratitude.

Although we may acknowledge gratitude's many benefits, we have a tendency to focus on the negative and what is NOT working well in our lives. For gratitude to meet its full healing potential, it needs to become more than just a practice we engage in during the season of Thanksgiving. We have to learn a new way of perceiving our circumstances.

When we practice giving thanks for what we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the opportunity to see all of life as a blessing. Let's now talk about some of the ways in which you can choose to practice gratitude.

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

1. Keep a gratitude journal and list 3-5 things for which you are currently thankful. From the simple (e.g., colorful fall leaves, a fresh cup of coffee, a warm jacket with matching mittens, etc.) to the exciting (e.g., the kiss your child planted on your cheek while exclaiming that he/she loves you, the colleague at work who genuinely listened to your concerns, getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, etc.).

2. Ask your significant other and/or children to be a gratitude partner with whom you can share your list. This way you can discuss your revelations around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime family routine. Also, your gratitude partner can help prompt and encourage you if you lose motivation to continue your practice or simply forget.

3. Express your gratitude to others for the impact and influence they have made in your life. The expression of gratitude may be particularly effective when done by phone, letter, or face-to-face. Describe in detail what he or she did for you and exactly how it positively impacted your life.

4. Make a gratitude collage. Paste pictures of everything that represents what you are grateful for in your life. Hang it in a location where it is plainly visible for you to see each and every day.

5. When you are feeling down and having a difficult time seeing the good in your life, make a gratitude list instead. You will be amazed by how much better you feel right at that moment.

Regardless of which gratitude strategy you choose to implement, select a time of day when you have a few minutes to step outside your busy life and reflect. For some working moms this is first thing in the morning before the children are awake, during their lunch break at work, or the last thing in the evening before falling asleep.

At some point in your life, you have probably been told to engage in your gratitude practice every day. However, I would encourage you to rethink this. If you count your blessings each day and in the exact same way, you may get bored, view your practice as a chore, and extract less meaning from it. As such once a week works great, which is great news for us busy working moms!

As you practice gratitude, you will notice an inner shift begin to occur. You will delight in discovering how content, hopeful, and fulfilled you feel. That, my friends, is gratitude at work. It is life-changing.


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