The Power of Gratitude

Would you want to hear a dear friend or family member spontaneously praise you for your graciousness, fortitude, resilience or friendship? Presumably, the answer is yes. Why not be that friend and reach out to someone to whom you owe appreciation?

In an introspective TED Talk, Dr. Laura Trice tackles this topic of gratitude. Dr. Trice challenges the societal pressures keeping people from asking for due praise. “Why can I say ‘I’ll take my steak medium rare’ or ‘I need size 6 shoes,’ but I won’t say ‘would you praise me’ this way?” she boldly asks.

Everyone knows how rewarding it can be to go above and beyond one’s basic responsibilities in a relationship and subsequently receive adequate praise from those around him or her. So, why not attempt to crack away at the stigma by directly asking for reassurance and appreciation? The results may be pleasantly surprising.

Often, people are afraid to ask for this praise because it seems to give away their insecurities and indicate to others their personal issues, for which they may need some help. Dr. Trice notes that this information is valuable--while it can be used to ridicule, it can also be used to offer help and support to the person who provides it. Dr. Trice urges her audience to revoke this fear of betrayal and be open with their loved ones about what they think they deserve to be applauded for.

Photo courtesy of MTSOfan / Flickr

Photo courtesy of MTSOfan / Flickr

Kevin Eikenberry, an expert on leadership and training others to succeed, offers more insight into utilizing gratitude to improve mental health. He recognizes the impacts of gratitude in improving problem-solving skills. Thinking more positively about what you are grateful for can help transform the problem at hand from an issue to an opportunity for improvement. “Too often we look at problem-solving with a very jaded view,” notes Eikenberry. Gratitude leads people to make more creative connections and understand problems from various perspectives.

Eikenberry urges his readers to actively consider what they are grateful for by creating a list of five things, major or minor, that people around them have done to improve their lives. He then asks his readers to make a call or send an email of gratitude to those they have included in their list in order to voice their appreciation.

Gratitude is also powerful in its ability to make any situation, whether it is inherently good or bad, a positive experience. For example, failing an economics final is generally considered to be a bad thing. However, by simply being thankful for the learning experience, this unfortunate event can serve to improve one’s character in the long run. Staying positive and grateful boosts happiness, no matter what the situation entails.

As the Thanksgiving season nears, everyone will be reminded of this challenge to thank the people who have made a positive impact in their own lives. Keep in mind that true gratitude requires voicing your appreciation to others, not simply internalizing it. By being appreciative and remembering to express your gratitude to others, you will feel better about yourself, and may even make someone else’s day.

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