Last week I wrote about character strengths and practicing what we preach. If you completed the self-assessment you saw that “gratitude” is one of the 24 character strengths measured and is, in fact, important to becoming a successful person. In one of the studies included with the Coursera.com course I am taking it is suggested that gratitude could be, in fact, a malleable skill. So what does that mean, what if we can actually learn gratitude? Well, some of the activities included in the course are designed to help do just that: reflecting on three good things that happened each day and why, reflecting on things you are grateful for at the end of each week, explaining why when you say ‘thank you’ to someone (i.e. Thank you for buying me that coffee, that really makes me feel appreciated!), and perhaps most impactful of all is writing a gratitude letter to someone and reading it to them out loud. All of these activities are designed to help you understand the reasons you are grateful as well as help you express your gratitude in a way that allows others to feel even better about themselves.
We have been talking a lot with the kids recently about ‘saying what they need to say’ to their friends and teachers before the school year is over. Isn’t this another case of practicing what we preach? How have you shown gratitude to those around you recently? Think about the impact you are having not only on those people but on yourself. The attached research article is a bit dry (as research articles can be) but some of it’s findings are very interesting: Gratitude and positive emotions can help ‘sharpen the saw’, as Stephen Covey calls it, and provide emotional resources for us to draw on when we’re down or having a bad stretch. Gratitude helps to build and strengthen bonds with other people (students, colleagues, acquaintances, etc.) Gratitude can help us deal with stress and adversity. My favorite of all, “Gratitude inspires prosocial reciprocity.”
So how do you show gratitude? Could you do more to improve all of these things in your life just by changing the way you show gratitude? Give it a shot for a few days and I’d recommend keeping some kind of a log to track how people respond to your signs of gratitude. As always, I’d love to hear your two cents 🙂