Let’s start with a question: How often do you hear yourself saying the words “I’ll be happy when the company hits X revenue” or “I’ll let myself feel gratitude and happiness when we sell the company for X.” As high level executives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a lack mindset, always wanting more. When we focus solely on what we have not yet achieved as CEOs (or as people in general – parents, husband/wives, friends), it’s impossible to feel happy and satisfied. Frankly, many CEOs are addicted to this “not-enough” syndrome. As 2022 has been a stressful year for many CEOs – the volatile financial markets, the increase in interest rates by the Fed, inflation, supply chain issues, and the cost of energy prices from the war in Ukraine, it’s important to head into the final month of the year prioritizing your daily dose of “vitamin G”: GRATITUDE.
Gratitude is the emotion that will deliver you the most joy in your life, and it’s surprisingly easy to do. For one, it’s free— you just have to learn which ways you want to take it, whether it’s by starting a gratitude journal, simply writing a thank you card, or thanking God for all of the blessings in your life each morning. Secondly, actively practicing gratitude has a number of powerful health benefits.
Gratitude is a remedy for the epidemic of anxiety and depression that has swept through the population affecting millions of Americans, especially younger generations who were isolated during the pandemic. Gratitude is a powerful natural antidepressant and pain killer. Studies show that when practiced daily, gratitude has the same effect as antidepressants by boosting serotonin and dopamine. Gratitude also has the power to reduce anxiety by activating the limbic nervous system to subdue the unsettling thoughts that can run rampant through one’s head on a daily basis. Beyond anxiety and depression, over 50% of the population reports feelings of everyday stress. A number of studies have been done on the effects of gratitude for managing this everyday stress. A study by McCraty and colleagues revealed an impressive 23% reduction of cortisol in participants who were asked to cultivate feelings of appreciation. 80% of those participants showed an increased coherence in heart rate variability patterns suggesting they experienced a reduction of stress.
Beyond mental health, gratitude has the capacity to strengthen our physical health. Medical studies now confirm that our immune system flourishes, with higher numbers of blood cells, in response to positive emotions like optimism. Gratitude has proved to help patients with heart illness. According to a study from UC Davis Health, the practice of gratitude contributes to reducing the biomarkers of inflammation by 7% among individuals diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Being grateful can also aid in better quality sleep. Positive emotions like gratitude activate the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system, and it has been shown to reduce the time required to fall asleep, increase sleep quality and sleep duration. And most importantly, gratitude aids in longevity.
As we head into the Chritstmas season, now is the perfect time to start taking inventory of what you’re grateful for… big or small. Here are a few ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily routine:
- Morning Gratitude Reflection – As soon as you wake up in the morning, close them again! Take about 10 seconds to say thank you for another day of life on God’s beautiful earth.
- Deal with the negative by focusing on the positive. When things get hard, take a moment to think of what you can be grateful for in the situation
- Tell your friends and family how thankful you are for them.
- Offer written words of gratitude to coworkers, partners, friends or relatives by writing them thank-you letters.
- Writing in a gratitude journal is proven to be an effective strategy for counting your blessings.
- Gratitude Meditation – There are tons of guided gratitude meditations on youtube.
- Start or end each day by thinking about one thing you’re grateful for.