Diagnosis: Harried Heart … Rx: Gratitude

I love crossing things off my to-do list. Getting things done makes me feel productive and happy. Until it doesn’t.

Like when all the “doing” wears me down, or I feel overwhelmed by all that’s left to do, or when my task-focus supersedes people—family, colleagues, even clients—who “get in the way” of my work.

Sometimes my “doing-ness” can be satisfying in the moment, but not particularly fulfilling for my heart or soul.

Fortunately, with the help of a strengths challenge, I’ve discovered a structure that combines the powerful positivity tool of gratitude with my perseverant nature so I can bring more of who I want to be to my tasks.

Here’s how it works

After creating my daily to-do list, I write down three reasons to be grateful, either things I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do today, or people I’ll have the chance to spend time with.

heart-stonesSo easy! It only takes 2 minutes, but it astounds me how this slight reframe brings me back to my better self. Instead of worrying about daunting tasks or catastrophizing about upsets, I can be grateful for the moment, which feels so much better! Who knew?

It’s like the proverbial two-degree tiller change for a boat. That slight shift at the beginning of the day gives me more joy and heart-connection, so by day’s end it feels like I’m landing on a different continent than where I may otherwise have traveled.

Gratitude is a favourite positivity tool for my leadership workshops on resilience and stress management because it immediately lifts the mood in the room. Participants often cite it as a highlight of our day together.

Oprah knows

Oprah has known about the power of gratitude for years after being introduced to it by the author of Simple Abundance. Researchers have found being grateful helps our happiness, relationships, and our health–by quite literally healing our hearts.

Gratitude is such a potent positivity booster, hundreds of studies have explored ways to get the most out of it. Here’s a hot list of the best:

  • gratitude listCheck out this top 10 list from Robert Emmons, the world’s most prominent gratitude expert.
  • Start a gratitude journal. List three to five things you’re grateful for, from the mundane to the magnificent. Some research indicates gratitude journaling weekly rather than daily is more likely to boost happiness. Experiment and figure out what makes sense for you.
  • Write a thank you letter to somebody, describing in detail what that person did for you and how it affected your life. Sending your letter is optional, although Positive Psychology guru Martin Seligman found that people who delivered thank-you notes in person experienced the biggest happiness boosts, and the glow lasted for a month or more.
  • Enjoy a 90-second boost from NPR in this series of recordings that explore how gratitude can help us in different contexts—friendships, romantic relationships, and the workplace.

Use these simple exercises to discover the astounding power of gratitude. You’ll be so grateful you did.

MEIn the meantime, continue to lead your life with a focus on G.R.A.C.E. [Grow Relationships & Choreograph Efforts]…enjoy yourself and the moment…and lead with confidence!

May the (positivity) force be with you.

.. Mary Ellen (ME)

Mary Ellen Sanajko
Leadership Coach & Trainer

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