Chapter 15 from Debbie Goodman-Bhyat’s book, IntheFlow – Taking Mindfulness to Work.
Next up is a bit of gratitude and appreciation.
Yes, I accept, it can sound a little soppy and clichéd – I too have heard a million times about ‘gratitude journals’ and writing a list of ten things every day that one can be grateful for, just so that you have some perspective on how not- awful your life is …
So I understand if you’re reading this with a raised eyebrow.
However, if you’re into hard-core science and data, there is an abundance of empirical evidence that validates the positive physical, emotional and psychological impact of cultivating an awareness of appreciation and thankfulness.
In Thanks! by Robert A. Emmons, scientific research shows that regular thoughts of gratitude can improve one’s sense of joy, optimism and happiness by about 25%, and Gratitude Works! (by the same author who is a world expert in the field of ‘gratitude science’) offers a whole lot more data on the topic.
Even so, scientific evidence aside, you may still be feeling somewhat sceptical about dabbling in gratitude. So here’s a direct instruction: Drop the raised eyebrow because IntheFlow’s ‘Grateful For’ prompt has real impact.
Firstly, when I talk about gratitude, I’m not referring to things like the food I have to eat, the roof over my head, and such (although these are not to be taken for granted, of course).
Ideally, what I’m looking for is something more specific, something that relates to the happenings of the day, or the previous day. Something like, “I’m really grateful that my husband was able to take the children to school so that I could go to Pilates”, or “I’m so grateful that I have an excellent dentist, who extracted my tooth relatively painlessly …”
What I mean is that what we’re ‘Grateful For’ is quite pedestrian, everyday stuff, that we often don’t take note of or acknowledge, unless we actually think about it (like with Yesterday’s Best Thing).
By focusing on the specifics of your day to identify something that you feel thankful and grateful for, you are once again bringing awareness to a few important moments of your day – things that are currently happening (or have already taken place) but which, until now, were not necessarily attracting much – or any – attention.
And with this mindful appreciation, comes a sense of enhanced empathy,generosity and compassion. And joy.
The science proves it, and I can confirm it!
Then, the ‘Grateful For’ prompt has a second part to it: once you’ve made a mental note of what you’re ‘grateful for’, hold the thought and then take action.
Here’s what I mean:
Hopefully, what you’re feeling ‘grateful for’ involves another person – perhaps you’re feeling thankful for or appreciative of something they’ve done, or how they ‘show up’ in your life. Because the opportunity then arises to make contact with that person to acknowledge them directly.
And this is the real power of the ‘GF’ prompt. It’s all very well noting your gratitude in your mind, but when you pick up the phone and thank your husband, colleague, dentist, mother, whomever … that’s when something extra special starts to happen.
I know this, because of the wonderful responses I get each and every time I say thank you unexpectedly to someone in my life.
And it is unexpected (which in a way makes it all the more special), because the reality is that even if we’re particularly thoughtful and considerate people, and may think appreciatively of those around us, I’m pretty willing to bet that most of us do not take the extra step of actually saying ‘thanks’.
Unless we make a point of doing it.
And with IntheFlow, that point is made. Every day.
When we shift our gratitude from thoughts into action, the person being thanked feels … well … appreciated. And acknowledged. And noticed. And loved. And … (I could go on here, but I know you get the point).
And you (the appreciator) will no doubt feel really good too.
The bottom line is that by focusing for a few moments on something that you’re feeling grateful for in your life, and then taking a little extra time to act on this by acknowledging someone else, you create a circle of lovely energy and a consciousness of well-being.
All of which starts with just a few seconds of awareness.
Debbie Goodman-Bhyat has a BA LLB; Entrepreneurial Growth Forum from London Business School. She is the founder and CEO of Jack Hammer, rated one of South Africa’s top three executive search firms.
Debbie is a trainer and facilitator for EO Global and was recently been appointed as Forum Director to EO’s MEPA Regional Council. Her insights and stories have found their way into the media, where she appears regularly on television, radio and in print, and as a motivational speaker at conferences.