This week, I want to share an excerpt from a blog on Psychology Today by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, who sent it to me last week. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. (Posted with her permission.):
Many real-life heroes also do not expect thank-yous. Yet, when we benefit from the labors that others put out for our sake, we feel internally driven to and want to express our gratitude. And that's a good thing, in more ways than one.
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that gratitude is the "forgotten factor" in happiness research. They point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.
Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March, researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
Now how can you apply these ideas to your own life? Here are some suggestions to boost your own, shall we say, GQ's ("gratitude quotient"):
1. If someone thanks you, accept the thanks graciously. Let the person know you appreciate being thanked. That's all you need to do. Really.
2. If you find that difficult, think about why gratitude makes you uncomfortable. Do you not feel worthy of being thanked? In my study of personal fulfillment in midlife, I identified a subgroup of people whose own fulfillment was hampered by their lack of faith in their own worth. Chronic feelings of inadequacy can make it difficult for people to benefit from any thanks that come their way.
3. Look for small things to be grateful for. Not all acts of kindness have a capital "K." A driver who lets you ease into a busy highway deserves a wave just as much as someone who holds open a door when you're loaded down with packages. A smile will boost your GQ and make both of you feel better.
4. Don't fret about gratitude infractions. If you forget to send a thank you note don't worry about it and certainly don't use elapsed time as an excuse to avoid the task altogether. Send a quick email and then get to the real thing. If you're a chronic forgetter, though, you might try to figure out why. By the same token, if someone forgets to thank you, don't ruminate over it, thereby raising your BP if not your GQ.
5. Keep your thank you's short, sweet, and easy to write. One reason people procrastinate about writing thank you's is that they want them to be original and not seem hasty, insincere, or ill conceived. This doesn't mean the thank you should be one that is short enough to tweet but if you don't build it up in your mind as having to be a magnum opus you'll be less inclined to put it off. Whatever you do, don't make excuses or lie about having sent a thank you that you never did (for more on lying and excuse-making, check out my previous post).
A great reminder that gratitude is not only good for the receiver, but also for the giver. Thanks, Susan. To read Susan's entire blog, please visit http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201005/giving-thanks-the-benefits-gratitude