By Sabine Lay, Certified Money Coach
Being grateful has been shown in study after study to positively impact our lives. Our ability to experience and express gratitude influences our relationships, our emotional and physical health and even our careers. But unfortunately, the message “be grateful” is so prevalent, (89,000,000 google search results for the word gratitude), that it may be at risk of losing some of its meaning. Saying I’m grateful, as readily as we say thank you when someone holds open a door, robs us of the benefits that come from deeply felt gratitude.
We also live in a culture that encourages us to be grateful while simultaneously telling us we need more. At no time of year is that contradiction more obvious than Christmas. So much pressure and expense in service of a “perfect” holiday experience that fades before the New Year begins.
If you are struggling with your finances, worried about retirement or your children’s education needs, the expectations inherent in the season can make you far more weary than grateful. Even if you are doing well financially, the temptation to spend in ways not aligned with your goals and values can create stress and regret.
The Benefits of Gratitude
So how does gratitude make a difference? If you regularly reflect on what is good and positive in your life, you will notice a shift in how you choose to live.
- If you are focused on what you have, instead of what you lack, you will be less envious and less in need of “more.”
- If you choose to remember the positive things that have happened and the achievements you have had, you will let go of minor slights, be more relaxed, optimistic and resilient when new challenges come along.
- If you are deeply grateful for your family and friendships you will be kinder, more available and have more meaningful relationships. Strong connections with others will mean you feel more supported which can enhance your self-esteem and improve your sleep. Better sleep will increase your energy, which may increase your physical exercise, which in turn can create better health.
Gratitude and our Financial Well-Being
The benefits all sound well and good for your emotional well-being, but can gratitude make a difference to your bank account? Can it help you to get out of debt or ensure that when you retire you have the funds you need? Gratitude most certainly can be a foundation for financial well-being. Here’s how:
Earn More Money
Just as gratitude impacts your friendships, it can impact working relationships. A manager, who is grateful for the opportunity to lead, will be a more effective leader and decision maker, which leads to a healthier workplace where everyone is more likely to achieve their goals.
People who practice gratitude tend to worry less and be more secure, because they focus on what is going well, rather than on what could go wrong. Freedom from worry can boost your productivity, make you stand out from the crowd, and lead to career advancement and higher pay.
Financial well-being is about so much more than the amount you earn, but it is a reality that increased income creates opportunity and freedom to build your version of financial success. As a Money Coach, I often work with people who want to leverage a pay raise in support of their goals.
Spend Less and Reduce Materialism
You will want more until you believe you have enough. Only through gratefulness will we see that it isn’t things that bring happiness, it’s connection and shared experience. Buying something you want (or think you want) can make you feel good for a short period of time, but research has shown time and again that it isn’t a meaningful, lasting happiness. In fact materialism can lead to depression and debt.
There is nothing wrong with wanting certain things, but a practice of gratefulness will make you mindful and more deliberate about what you want. The things you choose will bring something of value to your life instead of an endless cycle of mindless consumption.
Gratefulness leads to financial well-being, because it encourages you to use money for the things that really do enhance your life. I help my clients develop a spending and savings plan that makes them feel empowered instead of imprisoned by money. Without the weight and worry of debt they are free to enjoy time with family and friends.
Increase Optimism and Goal Attainment
Grateful people are more optimistic. How could it be otherwise? If you are mindful of what you have, and of what you have already accomplished you are more likely to believe in your ability to accomplish new goals.
Belief in yourself and your goals is at the core of success. That is why I help my clients develop a clear vision for how they want to live their lives. What causes are important to them? What do they value? How do they want to live today? What sort of legacy to they want to leave?
The ability to answer those questions stems in part from the things they are thankful for. Helping clients uncover the why behind their financial goals and see them become engaged and excited about the future is an opportunity I am grateful for as a Money Coach.
The Action Plan
Gratitude leads to being a happier person, and happiness is a great fuel for decision making and goal achievement. In fact, there is research to show that happiness doesn’t come from success, success comes from happiness. So how do you exercise your gratitude muscle, especially during the frenzy of the holiday season, to reduce money stress and fully enjoy everything that’s wonderful this time of year?
Make space for gratitude. Make it a daily practice. Take a moment or two each day to write down, or even just think of, one or two things that you are grateful for and why. Having a daily practice will train your mind to always be looking for the positives in your life.
Start an accomplishment list. It can be as simple as a list on your phone. When you add something to your list, take a quick moment to be grateful for the opportunities, circumstances or people that supported you. Past success builds confidence in future success.
Question your purchases. When tempted to buy something, ask yourself if you need it, or if you feel you deserve it. If you believe you deserve it, it may be that you are using “retail therapy” to treat frustration, envy, sadness or even loneliness. Before you head to the check-out line consider if you could put the money to use in service of one of your bigger goals, like a trip, instead. Try using gratitude to diffuse the impulse behind an emotional purchase.
Pay it forward and share your gratitude. The holidays are an especially good time to tell other people you are grateful for them and the things they do that positively impact your life. It may be as simple as saying thank you to the co-worker who always keeps the coffee area in the breakroom clean. You will feel good giving thanks and your co-worker will feel appreciated.
The best part of gratitude is that when you are focused on the positive, you’ll find it everywhere.