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, which is available to view by clicking here. The presentation, which is located below these detailed show notes, 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.

Defining Gratitude

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 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 interact.

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 ahead blindly into the next task, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then, ask yourself: “What is my intention for this next part of my life? What do I want the people that I interact with to experience?”

5. Schedule Periodic Breaks
 
Taking short breaks every 45 minutes to 90 minutes improves your productivity and performance. If you don’t take these breaks, you’ll be unable to maintain your productivity and energy. Taking the time to take a break will help you to maintain that positivity and gratitude, much like your intentional transitions between projects helps.

 
6. Maintain a Gratitude Journal

Keeping a journal may seem to be a bit simple, but the point of the journal is not to write down just anything that you are grateful for. Instead, take the time to be specific​ about your gratitude and challenge yourself​ to get to the root of why you are grateful for the things in your life. 

Additionally, ask what situations in your life can be re-framed. What are the difficult things/people/situations/etc. that are a struggle? Determine what you can take away from these situations. One good way to think about hard subjects like this is to practice the 24-Hour Rule​. No matter how bad things feel in the moment, take the time to look back on it to see what the silver lining is.

7. Designate Your Mantra/Word for the Year​

This is a great way to think about how you are going to serve others, to contribute to your community/place of employment/family, et cetera.

8. Practice Positive Self-Talk
 
Shut down negative self talk when you recognize it and instead focus on positively uplifting yourself. This will help you focus on the things that you are doing well instead of constantly focusing on things that you think you aren’t doing well. That way you focus on what you are grateful for.

The Business of Gratitude

Showing gratitude in business helps to improve your own practice because people like to work with people who are genuine and who 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. 

Such professionals employ practices such as avoiding using “I” when expressing gratitude. Putting the emphasis on the person you are talking to is much more effective and shows that you’re focused on them and not what you got out of an experience.

It is important to note that it is never too late to say “Thank You.” In fact, sometimes waiting to send a thank you note until you have collected your thoughts will yield a much more personal expression of gratitude because you will have had time to review how the event/act of kindness/helpful hand/etc. has impacted you, which means your note could have more specific information in it.

To watch this webinar please click here or watch below.

To follow along with the PowerPoint created for this presentation, please follow along below.

 

Additional Resources:

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 FacebookInstagramLinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together we are strongest.

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