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How the Simple Act of Gratitude Can Improve Your Leadership

We know that a good leader needs to remain cool, calm, and collected to handle the stress of a fast-paced working world. People reach towards different things to maintain their resiliency at work: spending time with family, exercise, setting aside time for hobbies. Yet, research suggests that the simplest way to feeling happier, healthier, and prepared to take on challenges is the act of expressing gratitude.

Robert Emmons, Pd.D., professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, has studied the effects of gratitude for the last decade. In his article Gratitude is Good, Emmons says, “We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits.” Those benefits include: better health, better sleep, increased self-esteem, increased empathy, increased resilience, and more.

We know…it can seem daunting to add yet another daily task to your already long to-do list. However, expressing gratitude daily can be simple, timely, and have profound effects.

There are many ways to incorporate a daily gratitude practice, but we’ve come up with a few simple, quick ways that a leader in a fast-paced world can use to ensure they are expressing gratitude each day.

Use a visual reminder.

Print out a picture that you like, and then hang it in a place where you’ll see it at least once a day. Every time your eyes travel to the picture, take one second to name a single thing that you’re grateful for. Take a deep breath, feel the effects of gratitude in your body, and then continue on with your day.

Set an alarm.

With modern technology, it’s easy to set an alarm or a reminder on your phone or laptop. Pick a time of day when you know you’ll be near your technology and label the alarm something that will cue your gratitude practice, i.e. ‘Take a second to be grateful’. Schedule your reminder to happen each day. If you’d like to take this a step further, list some of the benefits in your alarm description to encourage you to follow through with your practice.

Write in a gratitude journal.

Journaling is a common practice of reflection, and writing down one sentence each day about what you’re grateful for is a great way to practice gratitude. However, if you don’t commonly write in a journal, this could be a stretch for you. Instead, you could try writing down what you’re grateful for in your daily planner at the start of each day. As you map out your tasks for the day, check off your gratitude practice.

Say thank you.

When you think of incorporating a daily gratitude practice into your life, saying ‘thank you’ might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But in actuality, saying thank you is a simple and effective way to express gratitude. Now, there is a difference between saying ‘thank you’ as part of your daily script – something you mumble to the cashier as you rush off with your coffee. So, try this instead: Look someone in the eye, give them a smile, and express sincere words of thanks for something that they did. The thank you could be expected, or even better, it could be unexpected, but saying those two words with a little meaning behind them is an easy way to enrich the lives of both parties.

In some ways, feeling grateful is self-indulgent. It is an instant boost to your mood and energy, and the research supports the health benefits of a daily gratitude practice. You can feel gratitude for something as large as the world we live in, or something as simple as a warm cup of coffee in the morning. Whatever it is, let yourself feel grateful and express your gratitude. Then, watch as gratitude, and your daily practice to express your gratitude, make you a better and more resilient leader.


Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

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