The Power of Gratitude: How Intentional Thankfulness Positively Impacts Your Well-Being, Practice & Community
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Spread Your Sunshine Founder Melanie S. Griffin, Esq. was recently the featured speaker for the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s (HCBA) Quarterly Luncheon. Her presentation, a complimentary copy of which is available by clicking here, focuses on defining gratitude, how to cultivate a mindset of gratitude, and the business of gratitude. While this presentation was specifically recorded for the HCBA, almost all of the discussion and advice given is information that can be applied in anyone’s personal and professional lives. We hope these ideas help you as you work to live a life of gratitude and appreciation.
Simply, gratitude is a feeling of appreciation, which is usually associated with happiness and positivity. It’s what brings a smile to your face.
Gratitude's Positive Impact
- The Impact of Stress
Many professionals experience stress as a part of their work life. For example, The Florida Bar’s Mental Health & Wellness Committee’s online Mental Health and Wellness Center states that 23% of lawyers report mild or higher symptoms of stress, 19% mild or higher anxiety symptoms, and 27% mild or higher depression symptoms.
- How Gratitude Can Negate These Negative Attributes
Gratitude has been shown to open doors to more relationships, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, and facilitate better sleep. And, the benefits of good sleep are numerous: it helps to boost the immune system, prevent weight gain, strengthen the heart, improve mood, increase productivity, enhance performance, and improve memory.
Gratitude has also been shown to improve self-esteem, physical health, psychological health, and mental strength.
In short, "Many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed."
Gratitude Is a Mindset
The following are several ways to help create and strengthen a “gratitude mindset.”
1. Recovery Following a Traumatic Event
Research, including that by the American Psychological Association, suggests that following a traumatic event, many people experience "a new appreciation for life, a newfound sense of personal strength and a new focus on helping others." Although potentially counter-intuitive, a silver lining following a challenging period is often an invigorated feeling of gratitude and desire to help others.
2. Start Your Day with Gratitude
Rather than diving straight into emails or social media that can dampen your mood, begin your day by positively envisioning the hours ahead. Establish your daily goals while keeping in mind what can realistically be achieved. If more than what you are able to accomplish is consistently planned, critically analyze your list, including only the items that must, and can, get done. Causing stress by over-planning will decrease your capacity to experience appreciation and share your joy.
Starting your day with screen time can also lead to negative self-comparisons to others, a practice that can destructively minimize your self-worth, not only harming you personally, but again, also preventing you from sharing the best of yourself with the world. Once you do log-in, channel your awesomeness and remember that you don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes in the life of the person to whom you may be comparing yourself. That project they knocked out of the park that’s making you feel low because you’re still in the research stage of yours? They may have been working on it for years and during that time, experienced numerous setbacks not on your radar.
To proactively approach your day, envision how you will react if things go better than expected? Worse? The same? Having this game plan will minimize surprises that can depress your mood and make it difficult to treat others with love and grace.
Further envision your ideal role model. Who do you most admire and want to be around? Why? Honing those qualities as you interact with others will help you create the best experience for everyone with whom you connect.
3. Evaluate Your Top Five
Who are the five people with whom you spend the most time? These people have the most influence on your life, so surround yourself with cheerleaders who help you maintain a positive mindset and share it with the world around you.
4. Intentionally Transition Throughout the Day
Intentional pauses between activities critically impacts and improves your mood. Instead of forging blindly into the next task, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then, ask yourself: “What is my intention for this next task or activity? What do I want the people with whom I interact to experience?” These periodic resets will give you the mindset needed to maintain your positive energy, love on the people in your life, and create the best experiences possible for both you and your community.
5. Schedule Periodic Breaks
Similarly, taking short breaks every 45 to 90 minutes improves your productivity, performance, and ability to show others grace. Although it's tempting to plow through a project, without these breaks, you’ll be unable to maintain your energy, which decreases your capacity to positively interact with others. So, force yourself to periodically stretch, walk around the block or visit the water cooler. Not only will your productivity soar, those closest to you will best experience your love and appreciation.
6. Maintain a Gratitude Journal
Journaling is a proven gateway to a gratitude mindset, especially when you specifically chart your appreciation. For example, do not write down that you are generally grateful for "the weather." Instead, challenge yourself to acknowledge the root of your gratitude, such as, "today, I am grateful for a sunny afternoon that allowed me to play with my children outside, experience childlike wonders through their eyes, and feel a sense of peace that had not been experienced for some time."
Further consider what situations can be reframed from a negative to a positive. What are the difficult things with which you struggle? And, how have you grown from those situations? For example, "while not receiving the promotion was disappointing, the consideration process allowed me to hone my professional passions, deepen relationships with colleagues, and identify the skills I want to sharpen."
Lastly, and relatedly, although the 24-Hour Rule can be a difficult practice, it exists for a reason - no matter how badly you feel in the moment, in the long-run, escalating a situation has a negative impact on you and the people with whom you interact. To live your best life and be your best self, leave the drama behind and show others grace, even when it's tough.
7. Designate Your Word or Mantra for the Year
A word or saying of the year is a great way to center yourself and focus on how you will best serve others and make them feel.
8. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Practice recognizing negative self-talk and tell it to take a hike! Instead, focus on positively uplifting yourself by remembering what makes you uniquely talented and special. When you shine brightly from within, you can best empower others to be their best, too.
The Business of Gratitude
Beyond benefitting the world around you, showing gratitude has both personal and professional benefits, as people like to work with people who are genuine and show appreciation. For example, attorneys like those at Fleeson Gooing, who are familiar with local laws, taxation, and various other commercial and legal needs applicable to your business, set an example, and thus, are viewed as "go-to lawyers" in their community.
It is also important to note that it is never too late to say “thank you.” In fact, sometimes waiting to send a note of appreciation after you have collected your thoughts yields a much more personal expression of gratitude. The passing of time allows you to process how the event/act of kindness/mentorship/etc. impacted you, better letting you explain how the recipient made a positive difference in your life. For a full complimentary replay of this webinar, please click here or watch below.
To follow along with the PowerPoint created for this presentation, click below.
Gratitude in Psychology Today
Gratitude: A Powerful Tool for Your Classroom by Owen M. Griffith for Edutopia
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
The Science of Gratitude by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
And, do YOU have additional tips that will help the SYS community?! OR is there anything that YOU want to learn about to shine your brightest?! We’re sure you have ideas, so please share your suggestions by emailing Melanie@SpreadYourSunshine.com or by sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.
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