Over the past few years, more and more people and organizations have had their eyes opened to the extreme power of simple gratitude. No longer just the domain of pre-Thanksgiving Dinner share sessions, scientific research has been showing that those of us who intentionally make an effort to think about what we’re thankful for and express our gratitude to those around us are generally happier, healthier, and live more fulfilling lives.
However, the key word in that last paragraph is intentional. Our brains are wired like thermostats, and have a tendency to emotionally regulate themselves back to a default state in the face of extreme changes. When an emotion is experienced frequently, this trait (called “hedonic adaptation”) causes that emotion to be felt less strongly, which can make it difficult to be fully aware of when something truly positive is happening in our lives.
That means that gratitude doesn’t always come easily or naturally; we have to work at it and be mindful of it in order to express it properly. But when we are able to do so, the improvement in our lives can be immeasurable. Fortunately, the four pillars of the FISH! Philosophy can help make it easier to recognize and express gratitude, and here’s how you can use them to help change your life for the better:
Be There: Be mindful of positive experiences
In the FISH! Philosophy, we spend a lot of time talking about Being There for other people–showing up emotionally for our friends, family, and colleagues can make them more likely to show up for us, building strength in our communities and lifting everyone to greater heights.
But today, let’s talk about Being There for ourselves. It’s so easy to let the happiest moments of our life flit by, barely even registering that they happened at all. So when you experience something positive, whether it’s a feeling of success for a job well done, a happy moment with your spouse or child, or even just a particularly tasty bite of food, take 30 seconds to just notice this feeling, sit with it, and express gratitude for it–doing this regularly will start to wire your brain to be more cognizant of these little moments and make expressing that gratitude even easier going forward.
Play: Look at the world from a new point of view
It’s so easy to meander through life with our own perspective, not even questioning if there’s new insight to be gained from others. But the more frequently we challenge ourselves to look at things from a new perspective, the more we’re able to get outside our own field of vision and see the world from a greater, more complete vantage point.
Sometimes this can just mean entertaining opposing viewpoints in the workplace–if a coworker has an idea that you’d naturally dismiss, take a minute to play with it and try to see where they’re coming from. Even if you don’t end up accepting or moving forward with that idea, you’ll have created a better team environment and have greater standing to support your own viewpoints with authority and trust.
Sometimes, though, this isn’t so simple. While it may sound like a hard task, looking back on painful past experiences or even just reflecting on sad endings can put our current place in our life into perspective, allowing us to more readily express gratitude for what we have, rather than stewing over what we’ve lost.
Make Their Day: Practicing gratitude helps you feel gratitude
Gratitude isn’t a state of being; it’s a skill that must be practiced and nurtured in order to blossom most fully. This may sound like a tautology, but the easiest way to make feeling grateful come more naturally is to practice showing gratitude to others. This isn’t just about saying the words “thank you” and moving on; it’s about internalizing (and then expressing) the motivations that drove others to do something you appreciated, and showing them that you understand not just the actions they performed, but the type of person they were trying to be.
By going out of your way to practice this deep, reflective form of gratitude, the feelings will come more easily in the future, and the words will follow more naturally. Especially in the workplace, saying “thank you” can feel routine, so circle back to Being There: really take notice of when you see a colleague doing something positive, even if it’s as small as a simple favor or expression of joy, and challenge yourself to show them gratitude actively and honestly; it’ll make all the difference.
Choose Your Attitude: Build a life where gratitude comes naturally
One of the keys to expressing gratitude in a way that benefits your life is that it must be done sincerely. If you’re faking gratitude, offering platitudes, or stressing yourself out trying to find things to be “grateful for” in difficult, toxic, or abusive situations, you’re not benefiting anyone, let alone yourself.
In order to express gratitude sincerely, you need to build a life where things happen for which you’re sincerely grateful, and that means taking control–this can be as small as leaving uncomfortable conversations, or as big as leaving unmanageable jobs and relationships. But by taking control over your life, you’ll more easily be able to find things you’re grateful for–and that can start with gratitude towards yourself for making it happen.
Ideas to Reflect On:
- Reflect on 5 things you feel genuinely grateful for, and put that gratitude into words and reflect back: was this harder than you expected? Easier? Do you feel you could do this daily?
- Do you express gratitude in the workplace on a regular basis? If so, is it sincere or just a rote expression of thanks?
- What’s one aspect of your life that you cannot find yourself feeling grateful for? Is there a way for you to change that or leave it behind?
Whether you work in business, education, or healthcare, FISH! offers accessible, intuitive solutions to empower your workers, bring your team together, and introduce Play into your organization. We invite you to contact us today at 800.695.4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with our cultural specialists, who will help you find the right FISH! Philosophy solutions that will nurture your organizational culture and motivate your team!
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