Tag Archives: resilience

Why Gratitude is the Best (and Only) Option

nov13_2016

Point to Ponder:
Who or what are you grateful for?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

This summer, during our Banff, Canada iGnite Escape, each evening we found ourselves relaxing in the outdoor hot tub that overlooked the mountains while playing a get-to-know-you card game. One card with a random question would be chosen and each of us would have an opportunity to answer it. The questions were innocent, fun, thought-provoking and a great way to learn more about one another. A few examples of the questions were: “if you got a tattoo, what would you get and why?; if you could choose to be a different ethnicity, what would it be and why; and when feeling down or depressed, what do you do to boost your spirit? My answers were I’d get a cross tattoo, I’d be Brazilian, and when I feel down, I write gratitude notes.

Keeping a gratitude journal or writing gratitude notes are two of the greatest antidotes to the blues. Personally, they pull me outside of myself and allow me to shift my focus to a person or persons who I am thankful for as well as for the blessings in my life. And, while life stressors are intense and heavy, what we focus on is what shows up, so to me, focusing on who and what we are thankful for is the only viable option. Or, if you need more proof to the power of gratitude, check out the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude from a 2015 article from Psychology Today.

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
  2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
  5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.

iGnite believes in gratitude- living in and with it as well as expressing it. As a result, over the past four years and during the week before Thanksgiving, in all of our classes we have provided gratitude note cards for our members to write to anyone they want. As a result of our feel-good gratitude initiative, iGnite has mailed over 1200 gratitude notes that are delivered during the week of Thanksgiving, and after this week, we hope to make that number at least 1500.

Throughout this week, you will be given the opportunity to write a gratitude note or notes to anyone you’d like. All you need to do is have their addresses and we will make sure they have postage and are mailed by next Monday and received the week of Thanksgiving. If you can’t make it to class, I invite you to join our important and impactful gratitude initiative. Not only will your effort and words lift you up, but they will for sure lift up the receiver, and therefore the butterfly effect, the concept that small causes can have large effects, begins.


Action Item:
Use this week, the week before Thanksgiving, to write gratitude notes to those who you are grateful for.


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How Life Can Strengthen You

May8_2016

Point to Ponder:
What choices do you make when faced with challenge?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

I recently met a man who made a conscious and courageous decision to turn a tragedy into something beautiful. Much like the Journal one month ago titled, Lifelong Impact, he and his family’s brave decision is and will make a lifelong impact in many lives, including mine.

The man is Sid Steinberg. A little over two years ago, Sid’s twenty-year old daughter, Blaine Steinberg, passed away suddenly of a heart attack. What makes this story so compelling is that while Blaine was an incredibly talented, athletic and healthy young woman, Blaine had an infectious and contagious personality and enthusiasm for life, which is what she was known for.

Blaine was recruited to play lacrosse for Dartmouth, but after two concussions during her Freshman year she opted to stop playing and focus her time on her future in sports broadcasting. I didn’t know Blaine, but the people who did know her described her as a passionate fire-cracker whose passion, captivating smile, divine spark, commitment to excellence and desire to be better and work harder inspired everyone around her. From all who knew her in high school, to those she met in college and anyone in between, she impacted everyone.

As a result of her sudden and unexpected death, her family took immediate action and created an organization that would allow Blaine’s legacy to live on forever, but most importantly, the organization will touch and positively influence the lives of young women. The organization is called Live Like Blaine and their mission is to empower and inspire young women to become leaders through fitness and athletics. Their impact in less than two years has been extraordinary. The organization have raised well over $100,000, which is being used towards leadership conferences, sport camps and other programs whose mission aligns with LLB.

While talking to Sid, learning about Blaine, and familiarizing myself with the organization, I couldn’t quite grasp the Steinberg family’s attitude. Despite experiencing the devastating and life-altering loss of a child only two years ago, how are they able to get out of bed in the morning, more less have a constant smile on their faces, uplifting outlook on life and captivating spirits? I let him know how inspired I was by Blaine’s life and he and his family’s resilience, outlook and ability to take something terrible and turn it into something wonderful. Sid looked at me with a warm smile and said, “Neissa, upon Blaine’s passing, Jill (his wife) and I told ourselves we could let this terrible thing define us, defeat us or strengthen us, and we choose strengthen, as the first two are not an option for our family.” Sid then went on to share this, “Life’s path is not straight, as you well know. Blaine’s death has motivated Jill and I to look both inward and outward and we have found some level of peace and a greater level of fulfillment in helping others as we honor Blaine.”

For the past few weeks I have thought a lot about Sid’s words and actions. I am encouraged and amazed by their choices but as I have continued to ponder on letting a tragedy defeat, define or strengthen us, I actually think that is conscious choice we get to make everyday. In all circumstances: good, bad, disappointing or tragic, nothing should defeat or define us, but instead strengthen us.

For example, how often do we stew over something irritating or problematic to the point that it takes over our every thought, affects our attitude and even our health. This could be a break up, divorce, a disappointment, the loss of a job–anything upsetting. If we talk about it all of the time, and can’t seem to move past it, then it wins, it has defeated us and has defined us. Or, let’s flip it to something wonderful, like landing our dream job, a promotion, a marriage or a great relationship, or becoming a mother. Initially, these things will not defeat us, but if we allow them to define us, then they can defeat us because we have given them too much power. And, because nothing is permanent or perfect and everything comes with struggle, there will be a day when the dream job and promotion pass, the marriage or relationship are challenged and your child goes off to college and creates a new life for him or herself. Then, the question we will have to ask ourselves is “Who are we?”

All in all, I’m of the opinion that things, people, groups, titles, our relationships, a job, life’s ups and down, and tragedy are not placed in our lives to defeat or define us. They have been given to us for strengthening purposes, and strengthening purposes only. Whereas, it’s our faith, character, resilience, love for others and how we make people feel that defines us. It’s these things, including our ability to laugh, dance and love that we can hang our hats on and say, “Thank you God, thank you life, it is a good day and I am stronger because of it.”

Enjoy this newly released life-giving song by Justin Timberlake. I hope you will dance and celebrate all that has and will strengthen you!


Action Item:
Pick one challenging situation that you are going through and choose to change your outlook towards it so it doesn’t defeat or define you, but instead strengthens you.

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