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The Benefits of Gratitude in the Four Quadrants of Life
When we are conscious of our character development and spiritual growth, we become happier, healthier,
and more effective in our contributions.
One of the great benefits of a gratitude practice is the ability to track how the four universal portals of gratitude appear in our lives. When we do this, we find that the benefits of gratitude practice are multidimensional. Four quadrants of life experience, that human beings experience cross-culturally,
are health and well-being; work environments and communities; financial stability; and relationships. Two other areas of human experience—character development and spiritual growth—are influenced by, and in turn influence, all four quadrants. As a result, gratitude practice in the Four Quadrants of Life also benefits our personal evolution.
Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis are among researchers investigating the effects of gratitude practice. Their studies have shown that regularly and deliberately expressing appreciation and genuine thankfulness improves health and well-being. Study participants who kept gratitude journals and practiced self-guided exercises slept better, exercised more, experienced increased positive emotions, progressed toward personal goals more quickly, and helped others more often. In Words for Gratitude, Dr. Emmons and Joanna Hill write, “We have learned from research that grateful people elicit more support from others.
Benefits for Work Environments and Communities
While our focus may change, one thing does not: the four portals to the experience of gratitude are active within all realms of work. Blessings, learnings, mercies, and protections continually occur in some form or another in all aspects of our working lives.
Both positive and negative emotions have the capacity to affect those around us, often creating a contagious effect. Like many positive emotions such as joy, contentment, inspiration, curiosity, and love, gratitude appears to have the capacity to transform individuals, organizations, and communities for the better. According to Barbara Fredrickson in Emmons and McCullough’s book, The Psychology of Gratitude:
It is important to note that positive emotions propagate in groups and communities not simply because smiles are contagious (i.e., through facial mimicry), but because emotions stem from––and create––meaningful interpersonal encounters. When people act on their experiences of gratitude, for instance, they create meaningful situations for others...This socioemotional cycle centered on gratitude could continue indefinitely. In this manner, positive emotions tend to beget subsequent positive emotions. Accordingly, the broaden-and-build-theory predicts that positive emotions not only produce
Existing research already shows that organizations with employees who experience frequent positive emotions have lower employee turnover, more customer loyalty, higher net sales, and in turn, more profitable financial outcomes.
People respond positively to gratitude, and this response directly impacts both people’s generosity and
their relationship to abundance.
Benefits for Financial Well-Being
A blessing may come in the form of an unexpected bonus, something we can easily be thankful for. We may come to understand the reason that a certain part of our business is not succeeding—a learning that offers within it the opportunity to shift course and welcome new possibilities such as a different way of doing business. Or we may receive a gift of funds at a time of great need: a manifestation of compassion and mercy. We may seek protection in the very literal form of homeowner’s insurance or another kind of insurance policy. When we focus our attention on all of the ways we are supported by our financial life, we find many opportunities to be grateful for what we have.
We know that consistent, meaningful expressions of gratitude by leaders, managers, mentors, and supervisors have the effect of increasing productivity, enhancing creativity, and encouraging cooperation. In environments where workers’ value is openly expressed, there is a positive impact on the financial bottom line.
People respond positively to gratitude, and this response directly impacts both people’s generosity and their relationship to abundance. A survey conducted in 1976 by Carey, Clicque, Leighton, and Milton in the Journal of Marketing, found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked for coming to the store showed a subsequent 70 percent increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were called and thanked and told about an upcoming sale showed a 30 percent increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show any increase. A later study in 1995 by Rind and Bordia found that restaurant patrons gave larger tips when their servers wrote “thank you” on their checks. Gratitude, generosity, and abundance are often braided together within human nature, and when expressed externally produce increase for all.
Benefits for Relationships
The longest relationship we have is with ourselves. Therefore, an important component of our life’s experience is to befriend ourselves as we are. Oscar Wilde is reputed to have said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” To befriend ourselves, it is necessary to extend appreciation to
Emmons and McCullough’s research reinforces that gratitude is developed and shaped within interpersonal relationships and social interactions. Gratitude functions in the chain of reciprocity—the give-and-take factor in relationships—which does not incur indebtedness. Put another way, in relationships, gratitude and generosity are intertwined. The capacity to be grateful and generous develops in the context of family and social relationships, and gratitude plays a crucial role in establishing and maintaining all such relations. By mutual giving, people become tied to each other by
Benefits for Character Development and Spiritual Growth
Spirituality gives meaning to life, and spiritual growth is about discovering meaning. Spirituality is often expressed in religious terms, but it is the experience of recognizing states of grace, the transcendent, synchronicity, and that which is sacred or holy; it can be found in nature, silence, art, music, family,
When we are conscious of our character development and spiritual growth, we begin to shift to looking at what is working in our lives and in our own nature. We become happier, healthier, and more effective in our contributions. We begin to look for the goodness in ourselves and others, demonstrating more compassion and generosity.
Angeles Arrien, PhD, is a teacher, author, and cultural anthropologist whose teachings bridge the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and comparative religion, while focusing on universal beliefs shared by humanity. She lectures and leads workshops internationally at colleges, corporate settings, and personal growth facilities.
Her book - Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life (Sounds True, Inc., Boulder, CO, ©2011) - integrates the latest teachings from social science with stories, prayers, and practices from cultures and traditions spanning the globe, and presents a 12-month plan for making gratitude your foundation for daily living.
The above excerpt is posted with the author's kind permission.