“I can live two months on a good compliment.” Mark Twain
I just received a handwritten note from a client thanking me for a recent keynote presentation and sharing with me some of the positive remarks received from audience members. Wow! Now that’s a piece of snail mail that’s worth opening! It is at touching moments like these that I can’t help but smile, and I naturally stop and notice how truly grateful I am for the kind of work I get to do. And I am especially grateful for the amazing clients (and you know who you are) I am fortunate enough to work with. At these moments, right now, my heart is full of joy.
Right now. But…last week?
“How do I keep the joy?”
The ups and the downs in my business are a way of life. A bureau calls and requests a hold a date (joy!), but then maybe a week or two later they call back and cancel the hold because the client went in another direction (not joy). In my world – and I bet in yours too – praise and rejection go hand in hand. The challenge is – which one will I let linger? To be honest, these days the “not joy” feeling has been overstaying its welcome, and I am ready for a change. I want to shift my fear, negativity, and overall whininess towards a more positive focus.
I spent the morning doing a little Googling and I stumbled onto Brené Brown’s research exploring the relationship between joy and gratitude. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame (and she’s awesome). She said that before she did this research on joy and gratitude she believed that people who where joyful were grateful for the good in their life. But that was not exactly the case. Rather, after her 12 years of research she discovered that when it comes to joy there is a BIG difference between occasionally, almost accidentally, feeling grateful and actively, routinely PRACTICING gratitude – people who actively practice gratitude (think keeping a gratitude journal, writing thank you notes, sharing gratitude with others, etc.) have more joy in their life.
Another researcher, Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at University of California, Davis, found that when you practice gratitude on a daily basis you actually raise your overall happiness by 25%! From his work focusing on the psychology of gratitude, he confirms that the best way to actually practice gratitude is to put your positive thoughts on paper to concretely, purposefully affirm goodness. He shows that there is a strong correlation between gratitude and joyfulness, and when you practice gratefulness daily you will increase positive outcomes, happiness and an overall sense of well-being.
Hey, I want more of that! So instead of waiting for that next great note to arrive in the mail, here are some tips on how to actively practice gratitude on a regular basis:
1. Commit to it! Be intentional that you will be grateful. It’s amazing how we can quickly turn nearly everything into a negative. A recent example of this: April 15th I get hit with a double wammie- I have to pay the IRS not only my taxes for the year we are filing but I also have to pay my estimated tax for the year we are in. A few weeks ago I was so grateful for receiving a fairly substantial check from my mortgage company explaining to me I had an overage in my escrow account. Hurray!!! Tax money come to me- but… when I went to my writing the check to the IRS I found myself ungrateful-self complaining that I had to turn my beloved escrow check over to the IRS instead of taking a vacay…Think Grateful!
2. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Don’t make it too hard…get a notebook and start each morning or end each day jotting down 4 or 5 things that you are grateful for and do it every day. No fancy notebook, no computer program required.
3. Start writing thank-you notes and mailing them. Dr Roizen (Oprah loves him and his Dr. Oz’s partner/co. author, and chief of Wellness at the Cleveland Clinic) revealed that he writes two thank you notes each evening before going to bed. It is a ritual that he has integrated into his life that helps him end his day in gratitude.
4. While we are on the “Thank You’s” say it more often and when you say it mean it... try texting your kids a thank you and see what happens- (TY 4 MakeN U R BED AML)
5. Take a gratitude walk with no distractions. No phone calls, texts, no audible.com, not podcasts,no NPR, just you and maybe your dog…for me Wally, and let nature take over as the gratitude flows out.
5. Incorporate gratitude into morning exercise routines- Stay in your downward-dog a few seconds longer and think about what you are grateful for… and I be a lot of it will have to do with your flexibility and energy.
6. Create a family ritual. Every Thanksgiving we go around the table and share what we are thankful for. Why not add this ritual to your daily life. Before your family begins the evening meal share with each other something good that happened that day.
Please add other tips to help up create our gratitude practice.