How the 'Gratitude Effect' Can Reshape Your Life and Its Direction
I know when people hear the phrase an "Attitude of Gratitude” they are going to think, “yeah, yeah, sounds like more New-Age psychobabble. Where are the hard facts?”
I agree that hard facts are important. To prove their importance, here are some sources who argue pretty convincingly about the science of gratitude’s positive impact:
- Multiple studies, including one from Harvard Medical School, show that people who express gratitude are "more optimistic and feel better about their lives."
- The Templeton Foundation conducted studies that showed that an “attitude of gratitude” can actually have a positive and “lasting effect on the brain.”
- A paper published by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence concluded that “expressing gratitude completes [a] feeling of connection” with others, which is very important to building relationships.
- Even neuroscientists argue that gratitude is effective. Paul Zak, professor at Claremont Graduate University states that “the neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust,” especially when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal and public.
- UC Berkley conducted fMRI scans on individuals who wrote gratitude letters and compared them to the fMRI scans of people who did not. They found that the people who wrote gratitude letters had a greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex than those who did not write the letters. The medial prefrontal cortex is, among other things, believed to be an area of the brain that triggers responses to nicotine, drugs and alcohol. In other words, showing gratitude is proven to be a healthy way of achieving a natural high.
So much for psychobabble: Gratitude improves attitude, feelings of connection, and results. It is far more science than just a New Age trend.
"The Gratitude Effect" works when someone is coming from a place of being grateful and acknowledging people along the way. This means that it is important to take time to notice all the good things you might take for granted. Like so many other principles of success, it’s simple, but not easy, meaning that this is a simple concept — but it is not an easy concept to apply regularly in your life. It’s not easy, because the easy thing is to notice what is wrong, what you don’t like, what annoys you, or the problems that you face.
What I have learned over the years is that if you focus on problems — you become a world-class expert at problems, and it is hard to show gratitude when you are obsessed with the problems around you. However, if you focus on solutions, you can become a world-class expert at solving those problems. This process begins by recognizing what is right around us. From that starting point we can be grateful for those elements and begin to acknowledge those around us for the efforts they are making. The Gratitude Effect requires a life-long journey of developing our ability to be grateful.
Expressing gratitude completes the feeling of connection with others. Here is how you can start this practice today: many people have helped us during our lifetime. They are “in our story.” Have you acknowledged and thanked them? Have you recognized the difference they have made for you?
I recently heard a story from a woman whose sixteen-year old son pretty much stopped going to school, his grades began to fail, and he started drinking alcohol. Worst of all, he was caught stealing a car. This woman told me she was beside herself at her son's poor life decisions.
She decided to send him to a leadership conference to see if that would help take his life in a new direction. At first, he refused, but around the holidays, he confessed it was important to her, he would do it.
After he attended the event, he came home explaing the event was amazing. He learned that the people around him matter and that his decisions matter. One of the conference's speakers had a particularly large impact on the young man. The woman contacted the speaker from the event, explaining her son's reaction. She expressed her gratitude for the impact that his talk had on her son’s life, sharing, “You gave me my son back.” The speaker was so moved, he sent a video message to the young man telling him how grateful he was to have offered a small bit of help to the struggling boy. What’s even more interesting, the young man replied and told him a little about the life that he was now creating for himself!
As you can see, the Gratitude Effect doesn’t take much effort and costs little to nothing, yet it makes a difference in yourself and the people around you. When you acknowledge people in this way, people are drawn to you like a magnet because it accelerates the relationship-building process.
As the story above shows, the Gratitude Effect can come full circle and then continue to spiral off in new, impactful directions. It's proven by science.