Practicing the discipline of gratitude

Practicing the Discipline of Gratitude

The Presidential election already seems like ancient history. Our new President is front and center in the news and on everyone’s minds these days. But the work continues behind the scenes for aides of rival candidate Hillary Clinton.

In particular, one staffer single-handedly answers the thousands of pieces of correspondence that Ms. Clinton still receives everyday. In gratitude, she insists on sending a personal reply to each one. I believe that gratitude is a gift we should express everyday not only because it’s the right thing to do, but for our own happiness and well-being.

Practicing Gratitude

The aide assigned to this project is 30-year-old Rob Russo, the director of correspondence and briefings. According to Russo, as quoted in BuzzFeed, his work is a practice in “the discipline of gratitude.” He says the phrase is one of Clinton’s favorites from the early ’90s, borrowed from the Jesuit priest Henri Nouwen.

It’s the idea that gratitude should be practiced almost like an exercise or academic pursuit, something you commit to and work at. “That’s sort of her whole mantra in terms of her correspondence,” he says in the article.

Gratitude is Good for Your Health

A number of studies show that gratitude is also good for your health. As WebMD explains it in an article entitled Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude, “Grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic that researchers say boosts the immune system…optimism also has a positive health impact on people with compromised health.”

In a study conducted after the September 11, 2001 tragedy, researchers noted an immediate surge in feelings of gratitude. The author of one survey attributes this surge in gratitude among Americans post 9/11 to a sense of increased belonging. He says gratitude in the aftermath of 9/11 helped buffer people against the negative effects of stress, making them less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gratitude is Good for Your Business

Gratitude not only makes you feel good, it can be good for your business. Do you express gratitude to a colleague who gives you a lead for a new account? Years ago, a company asked me to conduct a search for a new advertising agency. I narrowed the choices down to four agencies and my client chose one.

As the two agency leads and I drove out to New Jersey for the first orientation meeting, they talked to each other, completely excluding me. Never once did either one of them say “thank you.” Guess what? That was the last time I ever sent new business their way.

Do you regularly thank clients for their business? Expressing gratitude will make you feel good and your clients will certainly appreciate it. We shouldn’t need to be reminded that nothing in life is promised to us.

When you’re on the receiving end of a kind gesture or an unexpected gift, are you stingy about expressing your gratitude? You shouldn’t be, because expressing gratitude will not only make you happier it will literally improve your health.

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  1. It does not cost us anything to thank someone for a kind gesture/showing us an opportunity. Gratitude goes a long way. It does us good to remember nobody owes is anything.

    • Phoenicia — It’s true that nobody owes us anything. Everything I’ve ever earned, I earned with the help of others. I’m eternally grateful.

  2. Gratitude is essential in life. Am personally always grateful for everything positive that happens to me. But the last few decades people have started to take everything for granted and just focus on looking after number one. It gives an unpleasant atmosphere and those people would gain from putting the word thank you in their private dictionary again. Not only would it benefit themselves the world would also become a more pleasant place.

    • Catarina — you’re so right that we shouldn’t just be focused on number one — ourselves. It’s selfish and drives people away. How lonely it would be if you suddenly had no one or anything to be grateful for but yourself.

  3. Jeannette, I am so with you that gratitude will improve your health. That is a personal reason to be grateful and show gratitude when a kindness is received.

    Then there is the business reason you wrote about. Not being thanked by a business for sending business their way or the flip side, failing to thank others for providing yours with opportunities, will definitely harm business growth.

    When I was working I was on several business committees and I was amazed at first how business leaders talk to each other about: other businesses, business managers, job applicants, municipal leaders, etc. If you were in the black book with any business it quickly got around.

    • Lenie — how true. It doesn’t take long for people to recognize those who always take and never give back or express thanks.

  4. Every morning I start my day with gratefulness in prayer and meditation. I used to journal 5 to 7 things a day but that didn’t work for me – it seemed like a chore. I also do my best to say thank you for little things of my family and friends. As you know Jeannette I’ve often blogged about the importance of gratitude so I’m in totally agreement about it’s good.

    • Patricia — I don’t practice the daily discipline of prayer and meditation. I’ve often thought I should. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about all I have and count my blessings. I am so grateful for my family, my friends and my trusted business colleagues.

  5. Gratitude is good for all facets of our life, Jeannette. the only way I can get through most days is by taking time to be grateful for the good things in my life, be they large or small.

    • Doreen — I agree that we can overcome life’s challenges by being grateful for what we have. As President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Life is unfair.” So we’ve got to take the bad with the good and always be grateful for the good.

  6. Well said! Your example reminded me of something that happened when I was working at a hotel in Maui. Ours was a popular family hotel, but it was certainly not “luxury” so when a client tried to book an important top achiever incentive group with us I encouraged him to think in terms of a property like Hyatt.

    He only knew Hyatt from the mainland and hadn’t had a good experience with them, but I was friends with the Director of Sales at the Maui property so I knew they’d do right by him. I’ll never forget when I called my friend at the Hyatt – he’d never had anyone from another hotel refer business to him like that! We ended up working together and while the group stayed there we hosted them for a luau. Everyone was happy, the cliented booked even more business with us after that, and my friend at the Hyatt sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to thank me. Oh yes, I am a huge fan of gratitude both on the giving and receiving end. 🙂

    • Marquita — what a wonderful story! It pays dividends to be grateful. And it can off in business, too, as you can attest!

  7. I’ve been keeping an a.m./p.m. gratitude and prayer journal for the last several months. It has helped me be accountable to my attitude and choices that I make throughout the day. Like, do I want to report that I was grumpy or would I prefer to write that I spread some sunshine?

    In my last corporate job, we created an ABC rewards program where any employee could elect any other employee for an Above & Beyond the Call gift card for anytime that someone did something great. At first it met with jealousy, but eventually they got into it and we handed out lots of gift cards. So cool.

    • RoseMary — I bet you get a lot of pleasure in looking over your past entries in your journal. It makes us feel good to be grateful for what we receive. Love your gift card idea.

  8. It is amazing what gratitude can do. It doesn’t even have to be in the form of a gift or card; just the words “thank you for your help” can make my day, especially at my day job: I handle calls where some people can get very nasty and angry, even though I am not at fault for anything on their accounts. However, you get that one caller who says “thanks for setting things straight for me,” and it erases all the negativity.

    • Steve — I make it a point to say “thank you” at the end of every call when a customer service rep has been helpful to me. For service above and beyond, I will ask for the contact information for their immediate supervisor and send an email complimenting the rep. They are so grateful and it makes me happy to do it.

  9. This weekend, I was driving with my husband. And he stopped and let a car go in front of him. But then he jokingly said, “where’s my wave? The guy didn’t wave to thank me!.” Little gestures like that can make a difference in just letting something know you appreciate them, even if it is small. Great article about gratitude. That’s one I try to work on, and want to practice more and more. Because, as someone who talks a lot about health, that is an important one. And one that is easy to overlook.

    • Erica — such a little thing to wave to let the other driver know you appreciate his kind gesture. I always wave when someone does that for me. What does it take to express a little gratitude? I also thank people who hold the door for me — and I do it for other people, too. It’s how we create a civil society.

  10. Hi Jeannette. I think gratitude is vitally important. It’s such a habit for me that I thank traffic lights when they turn green.

    Gratitude has always been an important factor from the law of attraction perspective. There was a section of The Secret dedicated to gratitude as well as a chapter in Wallace Wattles’s book, The Science of Getting Rich.

    • Wayne — I had to laugh about the green lights. I don’t know the books you refer to, but gratitude is a subject a lot of people write about and discuss. We just all need to practice it more.

  11. No man is an island, entire of itself-John Donne.
    People forget, if they are successful athletes, politicians, or even tycoons, you never get there by yourself.
    Someone helped you along the way, be it a trainer, volunteer, or the person who works for you. If they fail, you fail. Some of those on the top, must remember to be grateful, and show gratitude for those on the bottom, for they are their foundation. Without a foundation, you crumble.

    • William — love the John Donne quote. It upsets me when a person on the lower rung in the economy does something nice for a person and gets no thank you. I recently went to a car wash and at the end an attendant wiped down my car. I said thank you and gave him a tip. He smiled and responded, “God bless you.” His gratitude made me feel so good.

  12. I’ve gotten much better about expressing my gratitude over the years, both towards others for the all the things in my life that bring me some measure of joy. The trait is particularly hard to develop coming from a family where please and thank you were hardly uttered. My guy reminded me that while the apple may not fall from the tree, it can still roll 😉

    • Jeri — Well, I’ve certainly felt your gratitude in the last few months as you go through your health issue. Sometimes it takes adversity to understand just how grateful we are for friends and family.