Recognise This! – The act of recognising others and expressing gratitude often has more positive outcomes on the giver than the receiver.

I’m generally a pretty happy, positive, glass-is-all-the-way-full kind of person. In my younger days, I was a cheerleader. I own that proudly because I’m still a cheerleader today. I love little more than cheering on those around me. I think my positive outlook also contributes to my generally grateful nature. I know just how lucky I am to be surrounded by wonderful family, friends and co-workers. (And yes, that last one does belong in the group.)

I’ve always thought my attitude of gratitude and generally happy outlook made my life better – and now I have proof. PsyBlog recently published the results of a Northeastern University study on gratitude and patience. From PsyBlog:

[Participants] were told they could have $54 right now or $80 in 30 days. Before they made their decision, though, they were put into one of three emotional states:

  1. Grateful.
  2. Happy.
  3. Neutral.

The results demonstrated that people who were either happy or neutral showed a strong preference for having less money but getting it now. This is the usual situation: most people don’t want to wait.

The people in the gratitude condition, though, showed much more restraint and were willing to wait for a larger gain. And, the more gratitude they felt, the greater their patience for the larger reward.

So, yes, being grateful can increase financial rewards, but that’s not all. Take a few minutes to watch this video of a Boston College student’s master’s thesis.

As explained in the video, the goal was to see if the expression of gratitude could decrease stress, boost self-love, and increase happiness. Boston College students were first asked to help with a graduate student thesis, but they didn’t know the real purpose. They were first asked to take a survey that measured their levels of stress, self-love and happiness. Then they were asked to write an essay about a person in their life they were grateful for. At the end of the essay writing, they were prompted to call the person they wrote about and read the essay aloud.

In the end, the expression of gratitude had indeed decreased stress, increased self-love and increased happiness. But I think I was most struck by the people who seem reluctant to make the call, and see the reaction when they do. The impact of their words on themselves – as the giver of recognition – is all we can really see, and it is powerful.

And that’s why the most successful social recognition programmes are those that empower every employee at every level to recognise their colleagues. Because the act of giving recognition to others has as much (if not more) positive impact than even receiving it.

Are you naturally a grateful person? If you had been asked to participate in the Boston College survey, who would you have written an essay of gratitude about?