WHY GRATITUDE? The COVID-19 pandemic has given some people a sense of gratitude for their health, their job, or their family and friends. However, others have experienced reduced feelings of gratitude. People who are grieving the loss of a relationship, job, home, or loved one are likely struggling to find feelings of gratitude. In addition, those who continue to experience daily inequalities and injustices might find it difficult to remain grateful. Over the next couple of weeks, you will learn more about how to infuse gratitude into your life, and how to be a gratitude leader. It is important to start with an understanding of what gratitude is.
WHAT IS GRATITUDE? You can practice gratitude to help change your perspective, provide hope, and protect your mental and emotional well-being. Gratitude is a sense of appreciation of what you have and for the goodness that is in your life, both within and outside of yourself. Gratitude is often a reflection of an emotional response from an occurrence that made a difference in your life.
BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE. Regularly acknowledging gratitude has many benefits. A growing body of research has found an association between gratitude and more positive emotions, improved sleep, decreased stress, decreased physical pain, decreased depression, increased sense of well-being, and strengthened interpersonal relationships. Gratitude can include memories of the past, current circumstances, or a hopeful, optimistic outlook about the future. It isn’t limited to acknowledging major life events, but also includes recognizing and appreciating the small things in our lives, such as that first cup of morning coffee or noticing a beautiful sunset.
HOW TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE. You can practice gratitude in many simple and easy ways. Start by setting aside a few minutes on a consistent basis to think about things for which you are grateful. You can keep a gratitude journal or write a gratitude letter. Have a goal of naming several things that you appreciate. It doesn’t have to be a long list, maybe three to five things. These are just a few examples, however, next week in this space, Ian Evans, Psy.D., Staff Psychologist and Suicide Prevention Coordinator, will highlight other ways to infuse gratitude into your life.
Efforts to make people feel valued and included create significant rewards in terms of performance, productivity, and satisfaction. Overall, everyone wants to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Allow space in your office, residence hall, or workroom for individuals to post positive affirmations. Try to set aside time in an office or organizational meeting so people can practice, receive, and share gratitude. Recognizing and celebrating people for their contributions can provide a positive morale boost.
CULTURE AND GRATITUDE. It is also important to note that we do not all express gratitude the same way. Our culture and background can shape how we show gratitude. One’s appreciation language may include expressing gratitude with words of affirmation (public praise), while others may do this through quality time. Understanding one’s language of appreciation has been shown to improve job satisfaction, but it also is helpful in other settings to improve communication and connections with classmates, colleagues, friends, and family.
GET STARTED WITH GRATITUDE. There isn’t one specific way to experience or express gratitude. Choose what is meaningful and feels right for you. Overall, practicing gratitude contributes to feeling more grounded and hopeful by recognizing the positive aspects present in your life. Consider giving it a try.
In two weeks, Stacey McElroy-Heltzel, PhD, Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology, will provide insight on how to become gratitude leader. More information can be found on the Grateful Hawks Gratitude Resource Guide: mentalhealth.uiowa.edu/grateful-hawks. #GratefulHawks