Gratitude Is A Powerful Emotion That Helps You Manage Stress And Operate At Peak Performance
Thanksgiving was my mom’s favorite holiday. As I remember all the trips to relatives or dinners at my parents’ house, I have warmth in my heart about Thanksgiving, even though Mom’s not around any longer. The whole idea about having our family get together and relax, enjoy a big meal, and share each other’s company is part of the tradition we continue. Of course we also include gratitude for all we have as we bless the food right before we dive into that enormous buffet.
As kids we learn about the Mayflower, harsh winters, and that first thankful celebration. This is a special story for our family as our ancestors on Mom’s side were on that very Mayflower and part of that same first Thanksgiving.
We make a big deal about turkeys, cornucopias, pumpkin pie, and being thankful at the time of this particular holiday, this break in our busy schedules, and the final pause before the holiday shopping spree launches the next day. But what about the rest of the year?
Expressing gratitude makes you feel great, and if you’re appreciating someone else you are spreading the love. The good news is it goes beyond just feeling good, and can actually impact your stress and performance levels.
The Institute of Heart Math has studied heart rhythm patterns and identified that graphs associated with frustration versus appreciation are dramatically different. The frustration graph has great heart rate variability, with the heart rate graph line jumping all over the place. In contract, the appreciation graph is smooth, with rolling peaks and valleys. This is considered highly ordered or “coherent.”
Heart Math understands the power of appreciation and gratitude and includes these powerful emotions in its stress reduction process. When you’re in coherence, your heart rate, breathing rate, and brain waves all operate together in an optimum way. We reduce our stress levels and can function at peak performance states. Think of a time when you were in “the zone,” like your favorite professional athlete when they set all those records. That’s what it’s like to be in coherence.
To reach coherence, the process Hearth Math shares is simple:
- Heart Awareness – Identify your heart space
- Heart Breathing – Deepen your breathing with a focus on your heart
- Heart Feeling – Engage your heart with positive feelings, such as recalling things that you are grateful for.
Doing this for a few minutes each day will have powerful effects for you.
Gratitude as a Daily Habit
Clearly gratitude is important, but is this a case of where we understand something to be important yet fail to take any action with it? Until something is an unconscious habit we may not do it every day. Appreciation and gratitude are so important that I built them into the Daily Habit list within my international best selling book, Act Now! A Daily Action Log for Achieving Your Goals in 90 Days. Here are some ideas to help you create this into a daily habit.
During Jack Canfield’s trainings, he assigns daily homework that includes “Appreciate Someone.” That homework can carry into your daily lives.
At dinner each night at our house, we go around the table and share what we’re grateful for today. With young boys, you sometimes have to spice up the exercise, so we’ve recently been going through the letters of the alphabet: “Today’s letter is ‘H’ … What are you grateful for today that starts with the letter ‘H’?”
I also think it’s important to appreciate yourself, not just other people. As you’re brushing your teeth before bed, look yourself in the mirror and share your personal gratitude for what went well today, or appreciate yourself for how you played the game of life and kept up the other positive habits.
Of course, using a daily action log to keep you on track, like what I describe in Act Now!, is a great way to stay focused and turn this into a habit very quickly.
Even once you have successfully created a daily habit out of expressing gratitude and appreciating other people, Thanksgiving is a special holiday. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling during past Octobers with a number of Canadians at the same event, and being invited to an arranged dinner out for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. The warmth of this group was extraordinary and certainly rubbed off on the Americans who joined at dinner.
For this Thanksgiving, I will share that warmth as I remember all my friends and family around the world. I am grateful that I have an extended network of such amazing people that I love and who I know support me. And, I remember Mom and appreciate her for being a great mom, for all that she taught me, and for such a wonderful list of Thanksgiving memories.