Before the holidays, a priceless gift to a colleague you appreciate is a sincerely felt expression of gratitude.
Not just any odd thanks or public recognition, mind you. A heartfelt, authentic, gratitude.
But before I come to the specific way of sharing the most effective gratitude, let me express my sincerely felt gratitude to Dr. Andrew Hubermann. He’s a Stanford neurologist who’s gifted the public his science packed “Huberman Lab”. In the past year I’ve learnt and refreshed tons from this podcast, from sleep optimisation and circadian rythm, to focus and motivation to ADHD, and so much more. If you want to listen to his podcast on gratitude to get all the juicy neuroscience behind the effect of gratitude practices, you’ll find it here.
When you share a sincerely felt thanks with someone, here’s what you’re gifting to them beyond that moment: You impact their cardiovascular and mental health, as well as their physical and cognitive performance, and last but not least their relationships in a positive way. And when it comes to health, that impact can beat prescription medicines!
Let’s look into the effect on relationships. When someone receives your gratitude, their propensity to go to defensive behaviour reduces. In other words, their fight, flight or freeze pattern, or perhaps just a latent anxiety, gets disrupted by receiving your gratitude.
They get a boost in their ability to interact more effectively with people – and those people include themselves! So if you know someone who is overly self-critical, you’re really helping them out when you express your gratitude to them.
They also perceive things and situations differently. Their sensory experience literally deepens. For instance, they might just enjoy a delicious meal or a social interaction more.
What happens in the brain, IF the gratitude is really heartfelt, is this: The receiver’s serotonin level increases. And that brings them closer to people and things. And that’s before all sorts of health benefits: Their breath changes, they become calmer, their heartbeat slows down.
- Brain scans have shown that this works when the receiver believes that the gratitude is authentic. And it works best when embedded in story. So here’s how to craft your gratitude in the most effective way:
- What was the challenge?
- How did that person help you?
- And how has it impacted you emotionally?
Like many people I’ve had times where I regularly journaled gratitudes in the evening. And we share our gratitudes at the beginning of every meal, and there’s nothing wrong with either of these practices. Yetit turns out that they are less effective in the mid and long term.
The most potent gratitude practice is where people RECEIVE gratitude.
We know this from brain studies. In one experiment a letter of gratitude was read out to a co-worker. Brain imagery showed how potent that was for the receiver. They showed far more brain activity than the person giving the gratitude.
In a nutshell: A simple message of gratitude has the positive impact on others that you wanted to have, but didn’t know how to.
You might be disappointed now, as you want to optimise your health and give your well-being a regular boost. Well, the good news is that you need not wait around until someone pops around the corner to give you their heartfelt thanks.
Instead, tune in next week to learn how you can craft your own effective gratitude practice to get all of those health and relationship benefits as well. Or, if you don’t want to wait, just listen to the Huberman podcast.
Now is the time to gift yourself a transformative experience of self-discovery and growth!