Take It With You

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I just finished a book titled Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  It’s primarily directed toward managers and business executives, explaining how expressing gratitude to employees will result in increased productivity, better morale and less turnover.  If you read the book, you’ll find there is plenty of research to support these findings.

And there is more!  Gratitude is good for the person expressing it as well.  The authors recommend keeping a daily journal of the things you are thankful for. Several studies of more than 2000 people shows:

“The benefits of counting blessings are tangible, emotionally and physically….People are 25 percent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 percent less envy and resentment, sleep  10 percent longer each night and wake up 15 percent more refreshed, exercise 33 percent more, and show a 10 percent drop in blood pressure compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.”

What a simple way to improve our lives!  In addition, another researcher, has this to say about the relationship between gratitude and joy.

“In my twelve years of research on eleven thousand pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful who did not actively practice gratitude.”

The last chapter of the book is called Taking It Home.  The authors recommend that we practice showing appreciation not only in our work lives, but with our friends and family and yes, even others with whom we come in contact. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make a commitment to give some undivided attention to your loved ones
  • Be excited to see them
  • Give immediate positive feedback to family members
  • Give them a break (we all make mistakes)
  • Be grateful to your spouse
  • Practice random gratitude  (smile at people, say thank you, remember someone’s name)
  • Be grateful for obstacles and even cranks (remember my previous post about how obstacles are opportunities? see An Opportunity?
  • Serve others together
  • Smell the roses
  • Write letters of appreciation

Of course, if you’re a Christian, none of this is surprising.  As you can see in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which I listed at the beginning, we are to give thanks in everything.  So, I agree with the authors and I say wholeheartedly, practice gratitude and take it with you.  Take it everywhere you go and spread it around as much as you can.  You’ll be a happier person, and so will those around you.

the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

Upon turning 50, the author, Nancy Davis Kho, decides to write 50 letters of gratitude during the year.  Why?  Well, for one thing practicing thankfulness is good for you.  Here are some of the benefits studies have shown:

  • Gratitude “rewires” the brain to reward us for the positive perceptions we have of those around us;  this begets more gratitude and a feeling of “elevation” that makes us want to become morally better ourselves!
  • Negative emotions like fear or anger trigger increased heart rate, accelerated breathing and muscle tension == positive emotions like gratitude help us relax, feel safe and connected with others
  • There are many physical health benefits — better sleep, more energy, improved control of asthma

She also felt that the age of 50 (half-way or more through life), was a good time to look back and reflect on those who helped to mold you into the person you have become.

Nancy boils her letter-writing project down to three steps:  see, say, savorSee the people, places and things that have made your life meaningful.  Say something to acknowledge that impact.  Keep copies of all the letters to write so that you can reread them and savor the generosity that supports and surrounds you.

She suggests making a list of those you want to write to, and of course that list will include family, friends, and probably mentors– people you love and admire.  However, she has a thought-provoking idea — you may want to include people who have taught you hard lessons — the difficult relative, the ex-boyfriend, the unreasonable boss.  Even those people have taught you something you needed to know.  Even those people may call up some good memories, or have some good qualities to commemorate.  You may even choose to write a letter to certain places, passions or hobbies that have influenced you over the years!

Another point — you do not need to mail the letters, or at least all the letters.  There may be people you wish to thank who have died, or that you cannot locate.  It may seem inappropriate to contact some.  The personal benefits of acknowledging your gratitude will still accrue.

The book guides the reader through writing the letters.  For example, it is suggested that you begin with a brief explanation of why you are writing, so the person doesn’t feel “weirded out” or stalked by the letter.  Write to older people first — we never know how much time is left to express our thanks to them.  Also, keep the letters about the same length (Nancy chose one page) so that you don’t go overboard with a thousand “do you remember the time” examples.  When writing to several people in the same family –for example your siblings, or your children, you may want to send them all at the same time to avoid the appearance of favoritism.  Some of Nancy’s letters are included as well.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a Christian book, but the author is a Christian (Episcopalian) as one of the letters she writes is to her minister.  Gratitude is certainly a Christian quality, and one we should all cultivate.  How about writing a thank you letter to Jesus?  Anyway, I liked the idea and may try it. What about you, dear reader?  If you decide to embark on a thank-you project, let the Lutheran Ladies know how it goes.

For more on gratitude see these posts:

Practicing Gratitude

Giving Thanks for God’s Mercy

Are You Giving Thanks for the Right Things?

Practicing Gratitude

I told you in a previous blog that being grateful is good for your physical, emotional and mental health.  Recently I ran across an article shared on Linked In that gave a 23 minute morning exercise that in 21 days would lead you to have a more positive attitude and outlook.  It could easily be adapted to have a Christian focus.  A way to practice gratitude.

  1. Spend 15 minutes exercising.  My addition … if you walk around your neighborhood, give thanks for the beauty of God’s creation.  Give thanks that you are able to walk, run, bend, reach, whatever type of exercise you choose.
  2. Spend 2 minutes meditating.  I suggest turning this part into what is called a “breath prayer.”  Breath slowly in and out, paying attention to your breathing and repeat a prayerful phrase — Lord have mercy, Jesus, my shepherd, or something similar.
  3. Think back over the preceding 24 hours and journal about a positive experience you had.  Give thanks for that. (3 minutes)
  4. Write a quick text, email or note encouraging someone. (3 min).

I haven’t been successful yet at doing this consistently, but I’m going to keep trying.  What about you?  Can you try this morning “gratitude” routine and let us know if it helps you develop an “attitude of gratitude”?