Time for a little gratitude . . .
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines appreciation as a feeling or expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude. But what is gratitude? According to the same source, gratitude is the state of being grateful, or thankfulness.
It’s a little fuzzy, isn’t it. Definitions can be. How about this? Earlier this week, a member of our team received a lovely gift basket from a company he works with. Here’s what I think–the gift basket is appreciation (an outward expression), and gratitude is the catalyst, the feeling that inspired the customer to send my colleague the gift.
What I want to focus on here is that feeling of thankfulness, what it means, why it’s important, and how it can help us to live longer, more meaningful lives.
So we’re right smack in the middle of the holidays. And in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I’m sure your social media feed was chock full of gratitude posts. And if you’re anything like me, you got a little tired of it. Bah humbug, and all that jazz. But here’s the thing, the folks posting about gratitude are probably a lot happier, healthier, and better positioned to weather the continuing storms of 2020 and 2021 because they practice gratitude.
Why practice gratitude?
According to PositivePsychology.com, practicing gratitude confers many benefits to those who do the work. Let’s take a look at the emotional benefits: practicing gratitude makes us happier, increases our psychological well-being, enlarges our positive emotions, and increases our self-esteem. Now look at that list again. I know it’s been a hard year for many (if not all) of us. But if spending a few minutes each day listing the things, people, or ideas we are thankful for can boost our happiness, we’ll be much more resilient.
Gratitude also affects our personalities, making us more optimistic, spiritual, giving, and optimistic. At the same time it strengthens our relationships with family and friends which creates a stronger social fabric and foundation of support. Right now, having that foundation of support is especially important if we are forced to self-isolate or quarantine.
If that’s not enough, gratitude makes us physically healthier, reducing depression and blood pressure while improving sleep and exercise. And in our work lives, gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. Those who practice gratitude are more effective managers, better at making hard decisions, less stressed out and less likely to search for different work (how does reduced turnover sound?).
So if gratitude is really that great, what’s the best way to practice?
Pay attention. Attention is at the heart of gratitude. And paying attention is not only good for cultivating gratitude, it’s good for our brains. Paying attention helps us better focus, and I’m sure we could all use a little practice focusing. For the last 20 years, multi-tasking has been the name of the game, but research is beginning to show that attending to one task might be better for us in the long run.
But back to gratitude. Pay attention to your life. This means noticing the things that enhance your time on this planet. This simple step will make a difference in how you see the world and how you experience your days. But you can go further.
Mike Oppland, writing for PositivePsychology.com, offers up a list of 13 popular gratitude exercises and activities that includes journaling, keeping a gratitude jar (my kids and I did this one year, and it was really fun) or box, using gratitude prompts to find out what we’re grateful for, and writing gratitude letters. You can check the list out here.
Here at AMT, we are a fairly grateful bunch, and to illustrate how gratitude works, I asked folks what they are grateful for this crazy year. Here are their unedited responses!
Jakob Boulb: I’m thankful for my family, significant other, having a job to come to every day, and my Onewheels!
A quick aside, Jakob’s Onewheels is pretty cool. I am grateful every time I see him and his significant other onewheeling around town.
I am most grateful for my support system comprised of family, great friends, and people who have taken me in and shaped who I have become as a person (Kristen Redman I’m talking about you).
I am EXTREMELY thankful for my dogs. They give off so much unconditional love and bring me so much joy.
I’m thankful to have a job that is adaptable during this pandemic (and just a job in general).
I’m also very thankful to have a job I enjoy and to be able to work with people I enjoy.
Also, bread and cheese. I am very thankful those things exist.
Tequila, tacos, potatoes, meat, ICE CREAM, and so many more.
Lastly, God bless Coca-Cola for existing.
Heath Houchin: Work flexibility and family.
Dallas Racklin: This year I’m thankful for liquor store drive-thrus, so I can safely secure my beer. I’m also grateful for all of the relationships we have been able to build with our customers through these tough times.
Rob McClain: Democracy.
Zac Egleston: I’m thankful that 2020 is almost over. While there have been many good things happening this year, overall it’s been a shit show. Also, I’m thankful for my family and people who are still willing to do good for others.
Laura Matthews: I am grateful for all of our customers and carriers. Even though it’s been the most bizarre year ever, I’m also grateful for the extra time at home with my family.
Erik Jensen: I am thankful for the infinite amount of readily-available information that allows us to learn about almost anything our minds desire.
Justin Hatten: I’m thankful for my friends and family, our second child we’re expecting in May, and the fact that college basketball is back.
David Abell: I’m thankful for my children. Being a dad is the most rewarding (also hardest) job I’ve ever had. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to do interesting work with a great group of people daily. They say you’re the average of the people you spend the most time with, and if that’s true, then I’ve won the lottery by being surrounded by the AM Transport crew!
Michael McKinney: I’m thankful for the crazy, shitty, weird year that 2020 has been. It’s easy to just want this year to be over, but I’m a firm believer that you don’t wish your time away. It’s been hard, but it’s brought out the best in a lot of people. It’s been good to go through the challenges with our people and see that we’re going to be stronger for having done so. I’m thankful for the extra year it has given us with our oldest daughter Madeline who elected to take a gap year versus go away to college. I’m thankful for the additional time at home with three daughters and my awesome wife. I’m also thankful for all of our healthcare workers, educators, essential work, and especially truck drivers who have kept our lives moving along through all of this.
Colby Shawver: I’m thankful for my faith, family, friends, and job.
As you can see, all manner of answers from all different people. Gratitude begets gratitude, so I’ll end with a few things I’m grateful for.
Hot coffee and sunshine on cold winter mornings. Popcorn, pugs to eat up the stray puffs that get away, and Christmas lights. Adult children (all four of mine are now adults) and the grandkids they have brought and are bringing to my life (getting two babies in January). I’m grateful to still have both of my parents and a gaggle of nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. I am grateful for my friends and my cousins who keep me sane. I’m grateful that my sister lives down the street, for the opportunity to work each day with my brothers, and for a long marriage to a man who’s wicked funny. Finally, I’m grateful for our customers and carriers, for all of you who read this blog or share it on social media. And for the great team at AM Transport. There isn’t a better group of people who are both funny and kind.
Every day is a joy when I pay attention!