Want More Good This New Year? Use Gratitude as Rocket Fuel at Work and at Home

Gratitude, a positive state of mind in which you lead with appreciation, just might be the ultimate sustainable resource. After all, it’s easy to create on demand and has a low carbon footprint. Plus, being grateful is so positive for you on numerous levels.

Studies have demonstrated numerous links between gratitude and improved health and wellness. One of the world’s leading experts on the science of gratitude—psychology professor Robert Emmons, PhD, of the University of California, Davis—found in one study that gratitude led to 23% lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol), a 10% improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain, and a 7% reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.

His research also concluded that activities such as keeping a gratitude journal or writing letters of thanks helped people reduce dietary fat intake by as much as 25% and reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41% over a six-month period.

Good stuff, right? I believe that getting a daily, deliberate dose of gratitude can act like rocket fuel in skyrocketing your career, helping you master self-doubt, build better relationships, and fulfill your amazing potential.

So that’s why I created my Gratitude Rocket Fuel exercise to help you stoke your gratitude supply each day and thrive professionally and personally.

You can begin your morning with this tool to frame the day ahead or do it before bedtime to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Best of all, you can see results from investing as little as ten to fifteen minutes.

Here are the six steps to take:

1. Create.

Open a new Word document on your laptop, the notes screen on your phone, or go old school and take out a blank piece of paper and pen. Take in a deep breath and then exhale. Stop paying attention to whatever else is around you and focus intently on the page in front of you. Back away from your technology. Ignore the beeps and buzzes that notify you about likes and connection requests. Make sure your devices are in airplane mode, or even better, nowhere near you.

2. Consider.

Answer a few questions to get a good understanding about your current circumstances, starting with: “How do I feel today, and why?” Keep the answer simple: “I feel rested and happy from getting enough sleep, ready to tackle the day,” or “I’m frustrated because of a setback at work and have been beating myself up ever since over it.” Expand on that line of thought a bit by focusing on the why behind it. Then ask: “What else am I thinking about?” Include any other “aha” moments or clarifying thoughts that pop into your mind.

3. Acknowledge.

Think about what you did for yourself during the previous day, or in the case of a nighttime practice, the day you just completed. This step is about expressing gratitude to yourself. It acts as proof of the depth of your commitment. List whatever comes to your mind, making sure you note at least one item. This could be that you got enough sleep, walked your dog, completed a major deadline at work, found twenty minutes to enjoy a thought-provoking podcast, and so on. It doesn’t have to be particularly ambitious. When I first started this exercise, “taking a minute to think about my life” made the list before evolving into a full daily practice.

4. List.

Make a list of everything you’re grateful for at that moment—the longer the better. Ever since I started doing this exercise, my daily list has skyrocketed from four or five items to well over twenty. It doesn’t matter if some items are slightly repetitive. For example, my list recently included: got enough sleep, increased the intensity of my strength workout, advanced branding exercise at work, conducted research for an upcoming article, my loving husband, my dog and more. I usually start by listing things related directly to me (good health, ability to exercise, making progress on an article), and then move on to the people and relationships I’m grateful for before adding other things. And you don’t necessarily have to be meaningful and profound. I bought a nice car a few years ago that I really like. I named her Simone during the test drive because in my mind she has the dramatic personality of a French soap-opera actress. So Simone made my daily gratitude list for a while, too.

5. Leverage.

Review your gratitude list, savoring what you’re grateful for and acknowledging your role in creating these circumstances or receiving positive developments. Then leverage that sense of positive well-being to ask for more. Note up to three to five new items that you want to claim, based on the belief that it is possible. You could list “Drink ten glasses of water a day,” or “Successfully negotiate a salary increase at work”—the point is that the gratitude you’ve been feeling is now harnessed as rocket fuel to create more goodness.

6. Reinforce.

This exercise is living proof of your ability to maintain your positive trajectory. It shows how you’ve gotten unstuck in the past, how you can now ask for more, and is a great reinforcement of your capacity to easily bounce back from any backslides or derailments that may lie ahead. I can’t stress enough that acknowledging your victories is key. Those small wins will help strengthen your resolve, correct your course as needed, and lead to successful long-term maintenance of your desired state.

Motivational speaker Brian Tracy once said, “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” I couldn’t agree more.

How has practicing gratitude helped you thrive professionally or personally?

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