Ever heard the phrase ‘count your blessings’? If an adult told you this when you were younger you probably rolled your eyes. I hate to tell you though, they were right. Counting your blessings, or being grateful for what you have, is one of the most effective tools you have to boost mood and feel happy.
But how do you go about counting your blessings? Well it really is as it sounds. Researchers in the University of California Davis split students into 3 groups. They asked one group to write down 1-5 things in their lives that they were grateful for each week for 10 weeks. The second group wrote down 1-5 things that annoyed them. The final group wrote down things that had affected them in the past week. They repeated this study with different students 3 times and every time the researchers found that those in the gratitude group were happier, more optimistic and more likely to help other people . The gratitude group were even more likely to exercise than students in the other groups.
An even more potent gratitude intervention was conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman (of learned helplessness fame: link to blog here) in the University of Pennsylvania who asked volunteers to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had been kind to them but had never been properly thanked. The volunteers read the letter out to that person and the researchers measured their mood afterwards. The simple effect of reading the letter out boosted the volunteers’ happiness for up to a month . If you’re not someone who enjoys public displays of emotion then this exercise may make your toes curl but worry not, the University of California Davis listed some of the things that their students were grateful for and they ranged from ‘the generosity of friends’ and ‘wonderful parents’ to ‘waking up this morning’ and ‘the Rolling Stones.’ It doesn’t matter what you’re grateful for, it’s yours to be thankful for and to harness.
Since then, other studies have found that gratitude is not only important for one’s own happiness but also for relationships and in the workplace. People who express gratitude towards their partner are more positive about their partner and feel more comfortable about voicing relationship concerns when they arise . In relation to the workplace another study found that a manager expressing gratitude towards employees was a strong predictor of how the employees felt and performed. Employees working as fundraisers for a public university in the U.S. either did a shift as normal or were given a short speech by their manager before their shift in which she told them how grateful she and the university were for their work. The employees who had been thanked not only felt better about themselves but made an average of 50% more fundraising calls in the week afterwards than those who did the regular shift. There were no incentives to make more calls, their salary was not commission based, but those who had been thanked by the manager felt greater self-worth and therefore exhibited more motivation to do the task .
So that’s the benefit of feeling grateful. Count your blessings and thank your employees and both you and the recipients will reap the benefits of gratitude.
- Emmons, R.A. and M.E. McCullough, Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2003. 84(2): p. 377.
- Seligman, M.E., Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. 2012: Simon and Schuster.
- Lambert, N.M. and F.D. Fincham, Expressing gratitude to a partner leads to more relationship maintenance behavior. Emotion, 2011. 11(1): p. 52.
- Grant, A.M. and F. Gino, A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2010. 98(6): p. 946.