Simple Approaches to Develop Resiliency – Part 2: Gratitude

By: Nancy Evans

We have been sharing simple methods that can help all of us to increase our Resiliency; first with Mindfulness and now with Gratitude.  Mindfulness is focusing attention and awareness on the present moment.  Humans spend a lot of time reliving the past and ruminating about the future. When we are mindful, we focus on the present experience, we observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance and we don’t judge them as good or bad. Its amazing how this simple action helps to reduce stress and increase Resiliency.  With gratitude, research has shown that if we turn our attention to things that we might take for granted, we generate happiness and positivity. Its another simple approach with powerful results.

Developing Gratitude

On average, people experience three times as many positive events, information and interactions as negative ones.  However, the negative experiences capture our attention.  To build Resilience, we need to train our brains to focus on the positives.  One way to do this is to practice gratitude.  Scientific studies reveal that gratitude makes us feel good.  It is associated with greater happiness, optimism, empathy and lower aggression.

When people devoted a small portion of time each week to listing the things for which they were grateful, after two months, they were more likely to feel happy and optimistic.

The Act of Giving

Mark Twain is quoted as saying “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”.  Giving can be very energizing and an effective way of reducing stress.  This is true if we can give in ways that utilize our unique strengths and allow us to see positive results from our effort.  Because we are so busy, it is often important to think about giving in ways that influence others while not taking a lot of effort on our part (for example, making an email introduction, buying someone coffee, listening when someone needs to talk).

Gratitude and giving add meaning to our lives, distracts us from our own problems and helps us feel valued by others.  Research shows that when we give support to others, we activate reward regions of our brains and inhibit amygdala activity, which reduces stress and increases Resiliency.

While these approaches to becoming more Resilient may seem simple – or even obvious – people who take time to be thankful for their lives in big or small ways and who prioritize acts of giving feel more connected, engaged and empathic toward their friends and work colleagues.

This blog was provided by TRACOM’s friend and Resilient client, Nancy Evans.

Read Part 1 of “Simple Approaches to Develop Resiliency” here.