Helping leaders emerge


Gratitude as a Super Power

As you prepare for your holidays, I thought I’d share a tradition that our family has and how it relates to joy. Each year, at Thanksgiving, while we’re gathered around the dinner table, each person shares what they are grateful for and why.

I really love this tradition because it’s fun to hear what’s on everyone’s minds and in their hearts – and it makes everyone feel good! In fact, the research suggests gratitude positively impacts our brains.

Benefits of a gratitude practice!

  • Improves general well-being
  • Increases resilience
  • Strengthens social relationships
  • Facilitates more efficient sleep
  • Reduces stress and depression

As you most likely know, our brains are designed for us to survive and procreate, not necessarily designed for us to be happy. By bringing self-awareness to what we are grateful for, we can counteract our tendency toward negativity and be more joyful. So, whether at Thanksgiving or in everyday lives, cultivating a gratitude practice helps counteract our innate negativity bias.

How to Cultivate Gratitude in Everyday Life?

Shawn Achor, a Harvard-educated, happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies, suggests the following tips for cultivating gratitude as part of your everyday life.

  • Journal: Each day, journal about one meaningful experience by writing down three specific details about it. It’s called the doubler because the brain doubles the experience, and you get to relive the experience. And, according to Achor, you only need one positive memory to judge the overall day as meaningful!
  • Express Gratitude: Each day find three new things you are grateful for and why. Achor calls this the 45–second disrupter, claiming the practice of spending 45 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth) on what you are grateful for and why, three times a day, has the power to transform someone from being a low-level pessimist to low-level optimist in just 21 days! The key is to find new things (which retrains your brain to scan the environment for positive experiences) and the why (which attaches positive meaning to everyday experiences which may be overlooked or taken for granted).
  • Write a Two Minute Note: Each day praise, recognize, or thank someone by writing him/her a short email, note, or text. Achor claims this is the most powerful habit.

Additional Resources: Science and Brain Health

  • Click here to learn more about Gratitude and the Brain: What is Happening?, for example, how gratitude can produce dopamine, our brain’s pleasure chemical.
  • Click here to learn more about 7 Scientific Proven Benefits of Gratitude, including improved relationships and sleep.
  • Click here to read Can an Annual Flu Vaccine Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease? As the daughter of a mother with cognitive decline, I found this interesting and useful.