Express­ing grat­i­tude com­pletes the feel­ing of con­nec­tion with oth­ers.

5 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

I know when peo­ple hear the phrasean “Atti­tude of Grat­i­tude” they are going to think, “yeah, yeah, sounds like more New-Age psy­chob­a­b­ble. Where are the hard facts?” 

I agree that hard facts are impor­tant. To prove their impor­tance, here are some sources who argue pret­ty con­vinc­ing­ly about the sci­ence of gratitude’s pos­i­tive impact:

  • Mul­ti­ple stud­ies, includ­ing one from Har­vard Med­ical School, show that peo­ple who express grat­i­tude are “more opti­mistic and feel bet­ter about their lives.”
  • The Tem­ple­ton Foun­da­tion con­duct­ed stud­ies that showed that an “atti­tude of grat­i­tude” can actu­al­ly have a pos­i­tive and “last­ing effect on the brain.”
  • A paper pub­lished by the Yale Cen­ter for Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence con­clud­ed that “express­ing grat­i­tude com­pletes [a] feel­ing of con­nec­tion” with oth­ers, which is very impor­tant to build­ing rela­tion­ships.
  • Even neu­ro­sci­en­tists argue that grat­i­tude is effec­tive. Paul Zak, pro­fes­sor at Clare­mont Grad­u­ate Uni­ver­si­ty states that “the neu­ro­science shows that recog­ni­tion has the largest effect on trust,” espe­cial­ly when it’s tan­gi­ble, unex­pect­ed, per­son­al and pub­lic.
  • UC Berkley con­duct­ed fMRI scans on indi­vid­u­als who wrote grat­i­tude let­ters and com­pared them to the fMRI scans of peo­ple who did not. They found that the peo­ple who wrote grat­i­tude let­ters had a greater acti­va­tion in the medi­al pre­frontal cor­tex than those who did not write the let­ters. The medi­al pre­frontal cor­tex is, among oth­er things, believed to be an area of the brain that trig­gers respons­es to nico­tine, drugs and alco­hol. In oth­er words, show­ing grat­i­tude is proven to be a healthy way of achiev­ing a nat­ur­al high. 

Relat­ed: How My $5,000 Stu­dent Loan Became a Mul­ti-Mil­lion Dol­lar Busi­ness

So much for psy­chob­a­b­ble: Grat­i­tude improves atti­tude, feel­ings of con­nec­tion, and results. It is far more sci­ence than just a New Age trend. 

“The Grat­i­tude Effect” works when some­one is com­ing from a place of being grate­ful and acknowl­edg­ing peo­ple along the way. This means that it is impor­tant to take time to notice all the good things you might take for grant­ed. Like so many oth­er prin­ci­ples of suc­cess, it’s sim­ple, but not easy, mean­ing that this is a sim­ple con­cept — but it is not an easy con­cept to apply reg­u­lar­ly in your life. It’s not easy, because the easy thing is to notice what is wrong, what you don’t like, what annoys you, or the prob­lems that you face. 

What I have learned over the years is that if you focus on prob­lems — you become a world-class expert at prob­lems, and it is hard to show grat­i­tude when you are obsessed with the prob­lems around you. How­ev­er, if you focus on solu­tions, you can become a world-class expert at solv­ing those prob­lems. This process begins by rec­og­niz­ing what is right around us. From that start­ing point we can be grate­ful for those ele­ments and begin to acknowl­edge those around us for the efforts they are mak­ing. The Grat­i­tude Effect requires a life-long jour­ney of devel­op­ing our abil­i­ty to be grate­ful.

Express­ing grat­i­tude com­pletes the feel­ing of con­nec­tion with oth­ers. Here is how you can start this prac­tice today: many peo­ple have helped us dur­ing our life­time.  They are “in our sto­ry.” Have you acknowl­edged and thanked them? Have you rec­og­nized the dif­fer­ence they have made for you? 

Relat­ed: This One Per­son­al­i­ty Trait Sets Apart the Good Net­work­ers From the Bad

I recent­ly heard a sto­ry from a woman whose six­teen-year old son pret­ty much stopped going to school, his grades began to fail, and he start­ed drink­ing alco­hol. Worst of all, he was caught steal­ing a car. This woman told me she was beside her­self at her son’s poor life deci­sions. 

She decid­ed to send him to a lead­er­ship con­fer­ence to see if that would help take his life in a new direc­tion. At first, he refused, but around the hol­i­days, he con­fessed it was impor­tant to her, he would do it.

After he attend­ed the event, he came home explaing the event was amaz­ing. He learned that the peo­ple around him mat­ter and that his deci­sions mat­ter. One of the con­fer­ence’s speak­ers had a par­tic­u­lar­ly large impact on the young man. The woman con­tact­ed the speak­er from the event, explain­ing her son’s reac­tion. She expressed her grat­i­tude for the impact that his talk had on her son’s life, shar­ing, “You gave me my son back.” The speak­er was so moved, he sent a video mes­sage to the young man telling him how grate­ful he was to have offered a small bit of help to the strug­gling boy. What’s even more inter­est­ing, the young man replied and told him a lit­tle about the life that he was now cre­at­ing for him­self!

As you can see, the Grat­i­tude Effect doesn’t take much effort and costs lit­tle to noth­ing, yet it makes a dif­fer­ence in your­self and the peo­ple around you. When you acknowl­edge peo­ple in this way, peo­ple are drawn to you like a mag­net because it accel­er­ates the rela­tion­ship-build­ing process.

As the sto­ry above shows, the Grat­i­tude Effect can come full cir­cle and then con­tin­ue to spi­ral off in new, impact­ful direc­tions. It’s proven by sci­ence.

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