Building connection through gratitude

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the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
synonyms: gratefulness, thankfulness, thanks, appreciation, indebtedness; recognition, acknowledgment, credit.

Gratitude is viewed as a prized human trait in nearly all of the world’s major religious and cultural traditions. Yet, only within the past 20 years has science begun to examine gratitude as part of positive psychology. Research continues to show that a sense of gratitude has positive benefits:

  • greater well-being
  • happier
  • less stressed
  • less depressed
  • more satisfied with their lives and relationships
  • sleep better

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.”

— Cicero

While we all enjoy receiving an expression of appreciation, there’s a lot of joy and connection to others in the GIVING of gratitude.

Science tells us that feeling grateful is related to the release of the pleasure hormones dopamine and oxytocin. And these feel-good neurotransmitters can be released in greater quantities when gratitude is expressed to someone else. In fact, they are also released in bystanders, people who simply observe the act of showing gratitude — gratitude is contagious!

Gratitude is beneficial when evoked by an individual, but its impact is magnified when it inspires ACTION.

Gratitude without action is a glass half-full.

The Gratitude Process follows the famous acronym OODA:

  • Observe. See the situation clearly, warts and all — an event, a tragedy, a person — if you don’t see the warts, or you only see the warts, it’s a delusion.
  • Orient. How should I look at this situation? Consider it from various perspectives.
  • Decide. What does it mean? Where is the good, the lesson? How should I respond? What is the story?
  • ActDo it.

It’s that final action step that the full power of gratitude is unleashed and CONNECTION is enhanced.

Because most often our feeling of gratitude CONNECTS us to something or someone outside of ourselves. And it’s out of that sense of gratitude that we are motivated to CONNECT with our team, with others, and SERVE.


So if developing a sense of gratitude is important, how can we build our gratitude muscles?  Let’s do a brief exercise, we’ll call it “gratitude calisthenics:”

  1. Take out a pen and paper (writing by hand is more effective than typing).
  2. Set a timer for one minute.
  3. Make a list of things you are truly grateful for — ready, begin!

Do you think this could be a tool you could use if you were in a mental or emotional storm and you took just one minute to stop and make a list like this? Would it help?

Do you have one minute to spare every day? Make this a daily ritual: When you wake up, at night when your head hits the pillow, or any other time you’d like to become more calm with better perspective.


Is it possible to be too grateful? In this competitive world can you lose your edge by being too grateful?

I heard of a CEO in Silicon Valley who won’t hire anyone who went to school in San Diego or Santa Barbara because he has an assumed bias that they must be soft or a slacker. Can a person be too grateful?

During the exercise, you made a list of things for which you are grateful. Now what? What is your action step?


Here’s a challenge to feel the tangible power of gratitude. You can pick from three levels: bronze, silver, or gold.

BRONZE. Sit down and write a letter to someone you listed during your exercise that describes what they mean to you and expresses your gratitude. Extra credit if it is handwritten in your own personal one-of-a-kind font!

SILVER. After writing the letter, call them on the phone and read them the letter out loud.

GOLD. After writing the letter, contact the person and invite him or her to meet you in person — don’t give the purpose away, simply say “Hey, let’s get together for dinner, for lunch, for coffee, whatever. When you are together, look the person in the eye and read the letter out-loud and afterward present the letter as a gift.

Be a High-Trust Leader: Go for the gold, build CONNECTION by expressing authentic gratitude.