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Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Why Grateful People Live Longer And Lead A Happier Life

Thank You! Thank You and Thank You!! We say it on a daily basis almost out of courtesy at times or to display our good mannerisms and at times when we truly feel thankful. A bigger version of this is played out on “Giving Thanks Day,” aka Thanksgiving, where we express how thankful we are for our family and other blessings in our life. When we are truly thankful and we feel it deep inside us, we are grateful. Grateful for our friends, family, our material goods, our health, and various other blessings in our lives. Feeling grateful forces our minds to adopt an abundance mindset as opposed to a scarcity based one, where you feel you are lacking something. An abundant mindset is key to our growth and well-being. Stephen Covey in his famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective people clearly explains the differences between a scarcity mindset and an abundant mindset. “It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody,” he said.

Gratitude has produced such miraculous results for people that scientists have been seriously studying the practice of gratefulness and its effect on physical and psychosocial benefits. Heartfelt gratitude not only makes us feel happy, but a host of other benefits. Let’s start with the obvious one.

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When you are grateful,

You’ll Feel Happy:

One study conducted by Robert Emmons at the University of Berkeley, California, divided participants into 3 groups and asked them to maintain a journal for 10 weeks. One group was asked to write a list of 10 things they were grateful for the past week. The second group was asked to list 10 minor annoyances in the past week and the third group was asked to write about 10 things that impacted their lives in the past week, with no further direction. At the end of 10 weeks, the first group folks were reported feeling 25% more happier than the other groups. Robert Emmons has written multiple books on happiness and gratitude. You can check them out here. Emmons book, ‘Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier ” is a must read! Sonya Lyobomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology and University of California and author of “The How of Happiness’, describes gratitude as the meta strategy to achieve happiness. “Gratitude is many things to many people,” she says. “It is wonder; it is appreciation; it is looking on the bright side of a setback; it is fathoming abundance; it is thanking someone in your life; it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is coping; it is present-oriented.”

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Your Physical Vitality Improves:

Surprisingly or not so surprisingly, gratitude improves our physical health. How, you ask? Firstly, gratitude helps lower our stress levels. Its no secret that stress has been proven to be a major cause of heart attacks and other chronic conditions. Gratitude leads to a positive outlook and spurs an optimistic approach to life. Optimism in turn has been linked to increased immunity boosting cells. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations,” Emmons told WebMD. A study conducted by California based Paul Mills, professor of family medicine at University of California, shows us that a “grateful heart is indeed a healthy heart”.

Your Personal Relationships Get Stronger:

Gratitude helps brings partners closer together. This appreciation is not only what a partner does for you in a relationship but also appreciating the partner for who he/she is. This fosters a sense of commitment towards each other and towards growing the relationship. Individuals are more thoughtful in their words and actions toward their partners thereby helping the intimacy grow. Feeling appreciated and valued by one’s partner makes a world of difference to the relationship and helps it get stronger. A study conducted by Allen Barton of the University of Georgia affirms this. “We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said study co-author Ted Futris.

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You’ll Be More Resilient:

Noticing and appreciating our blessings  regularly attunes us to notice the good in everything and everyone. This constant attention to seeing the good in every situation helps us bounce back stronger and quicker. Barbara Fredickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0 attributes gratitude to be a key factor in building resilience. According to Fredrickson, “When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put tragedy in perspective”. Another tactic that she recommends is ‘un-adapting’. This involves consciously drawing attention to the things we take for granted in our lives, like a roof over our heads, a steady career, food and other things. Again, this cultivates that abundance mindset leading to stronger abilities to bounce back in adverse situations.

You’ll Sleep Better:

Count your blessings to sleep better! Gratitude promotes a feeling of trust and “all is well in my world”. This in turn helps you sleep better by reducing your stress and worry about day-to-day things. A study conducted measured the quality of quantity of sleep in its participants as a result of expressing gratitude. The study confirms the positive effect of gratitude on sleep. People slept longer, woke up less and felt more refreshed when partaking in a gratitude practice.

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Your Life Satisfaction Score Goes Up:

Studies conducted and summarized in the paper show a definitive uptick with one’s life satisfaction. Positive thoughts leading to thoughtful positive actions, increased physical vitality, stronger relationships, optimistic thoughts,  all together cause an overall increase in one’s sense of well-being.

Emmons rightfully said ” Don’t leave thanks at the thanksgiving table”. Gratitude is a muscle in us that needs to be built consciously. Maintain a gratitude practice that works for you and your schedule and stick to it daily. It does not have to be anything fancy. It can range from meditating 5 mins a day, to being mindful, keeping a gratitude journal, a gratitude jar, writing someone a thank you note, calling up someone and thanking them for who they are, reflecting on the things that we take for granted that are truly a blessing are some ways to incorporate gratitude in your daily life. There’s much to be said about the Power of Gratitude. So let’s say it, breathe it, live it and reap its benefits!

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos/Petarpaunchev via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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