Gratitude, Happiness, and Leadership

As a leader are you demonstrating gratitude and happiness?

Does a leader need to be happy and grateful?

Are you promoting gratitude and happiness in your workplace?

My belief is that everyone would have a much better life if they demonstrated gratitude and made the choice to be happy. This does not mean you need to hide your troubles, not pay attention to what bothers you, to ignore your unhappiness or your illnesses, and struggles; these need to be addressed. As a new friend of mine says “you have to feel it to heal it.” As humans, we have oodles of emotions to which we react or respond. Some emotions lift us up while others bring us down or lead to outbursts. We can learn not to react to emotions but instead to respond in a more efficient and effective way. Of course, this will not happen all the time, but it is what we want as our usual response. We are human, and as such we have a wide variety of emotions some uplifting, but not all of them. Embrace your emotions as you learn to be in control of your responses. Where your thoughts go, your energy will flow. Make sure your energy is used for enjoyment, and for what you are grateful.

Gratitude has been identified as a feeling or emotion that promotes happiness. Gratitude can be hard to find now with a pandemic and a war in Ukraine. Much has happened to leave us feeling beat down, and that the world is against us. However, if we focus on being thankful for the small things like sunshine, life, food to eat, clean water to drink, and no war (yes, that is a big one), we are making a good step in the direction of discovering more things for which to be grateful.

I want to make sure we are all talking about the same thing when we use the word gratitude. According to Harvard Health Publishing’s article, (Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength – Harvard Health)

“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you receive, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, you acknowledge the goodness in your life.”

You can have gratitude for events or people in your past. Think about the people for whom you are grateful, do they know you appreciate them? Take a few minutes and write a thank you note. Once done, send it to them (electronically or by snail mail), or even better take it to them and read it aloud. Plan to do this once a month. And don’t forget to write a thank-you note to yourself every once in a while.

If gratitude and thinking positive are so important, why do we often have negative thoughts and remember the bad things that have happened? Our evolution primed our brains to focus on danger or anything bad that might be able to harm us or kill us. Our brains were wired for our protection. The dangers of the cave dweller days are not the same today, and our brains do not have to remember quite so many ‘bad’ things. We are now ready to retrain our brains to be aware of and enjoy the ‘good’ things in our lives. Today, if we focus on what will harm or kill us, we aren’t likely to make ourselves safer, but instead, leave us worried, stressed, and unhappy.

Don’t take what you have for granted. Harvard Health Publishing’s article, Positive Psychology (Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength – Harvard Health) shared this scientific evidence:

Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Mike McCullough of the University of Miami examined the impact of keeping a gratitude journal. All participants in their study were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on five things. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily hassles or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on hassles. Numerous other studies have pointed to the beneficial effects—not only for adults, but also for children and adolescents—of regularly making lists of things for which we’re grateful, keeping a gratitude journal, or expressing gratitude to others. Cultivating gratitude in these ways may also help us deal with common forms of psychological distress, such as anxiety or depression.

You deserve appreciation too. I appreciate me for being strong and successfully getting through chemotherapy and feeling so much better, two years later. There are many other things about me for which I can be grateful. If you don’t write yourself a letter, write your gratitude and appreciation in your journal or on post-it notes, and if writing isn’t your thing, take time to contemplate your blessings. We all have much for which to be grateful.

Those in leadership often arrive in that position because it was their turn for promotion. Education and development in leadership are often absent. These leaders are flying by the seat of their pants, learning through trial and error. There is no need for that with all the programs, books, and courses available. Leaders are responsible for determining the culture of their workplace. With that being the case, why not strive for a culture including happiness and gratitude?

I’m more than happy to chat with you and direct you toward a life of happiness.

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