September 21 is recognized by the UN as World Gratitude Day. This is the time of abundance from the harvests for much of the world. The group that initiated World Gratitude Day in 1966 thought it was “a good idea to have one day per year to formally express gratitude and appreciation for the many wonderful things to be found in the world.”
So, what’s so good about expressing gratitude? And how can it be helpful for you if you’re burned out?
Sonja Lyubomirsky refers to expressing gratitude as a sort of “metastrategy”* for achieving happiness; it helps to neutralize negative emotions and then uplifts the thankful person.
- Gratitude fosters your ability to Be Present and Take in the positive that is already in your life and what has brought you to this point.
- Gratitude provides you with perspective. It can help you cope with stress, illness and trauma.
- Expressing gratitude promotes the savoring of positive life experiences. It allows you to recall and re-experience the good in your life.
- Expressing gratitude is part of Relating positively. It builds and strengthens social bonds. When you express your appreciation to another, the behavior you appreciate often increases.
- The practice of gratitude helps you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. As you practice and express gratitude you train yourself to look for the good.
- Gratitude is prosocial. It is often accompanied by a desire to do something good or kind in response to the positive you have noticed.
- Gratitude reminds you to not take things for granted.
Expressing gratitude regularly is a powerful way for you to enhance your well-being. In healthcare, you are often dealing with people who are uncomfortable, worried and ill. After all, the traditional medical note starts with chief complaint. Through the practice of gratitude you can help to neutralize the effect of all that negativity and benefit from the elevated feeling which comes along with appreciation.
Here are a few ideas for you to experiment with developing your gratitude practice.
- 3Ws – keep a journal of What Went Well today. Write down, say, text or type 3 things that went well for you today. Do this daily or several times a week.
- Say grace or some other expression of gratitude prior to eating
- Notice one thing you appreciate about a person every day. Identify one person in your life, notice and then let that person know. If you’re not ready to let the person know, record it somewhere so that you can recall it more easily and perhaps let the person know in the future.
What’s your favorite way to express gratitude? What’s the effect when you do?
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*Lyubomirsky, Sonja, The How of Happiness, Penguin Books, 2007 p. 89