Honoring Those That Serve
Activating the Benefits of Gratitude
This month, Shelby County and the entire nation focused attention on honoring men and women who have served our Country through military service. During our own Annual Veteran’s Day Luncheon, Celebration Breakfast, and daily e-stories this month of employees who have served, we have had the privilege of honoring those who have chosen to serve millions of us that they will never even meet. To every individual who has ever served our country reading this message, the Division of Community Services says THANK YOU!
Honoring veterans and others who dedicate themselves to service is indeed a privilege for us because it allows us to activate our gratitude. This link between honor and gratitude is what makes November one the most special on the calendar. The more trips around the sun I go, I realize how critical being grateful is, not only to survive each day, but to thrive and live our best lives. Research also supports my realization. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, there are several scientifically proven ways that gratitude benefits our lives:
1. Gratitude opens the door to more (and better) relationships. If there is one thing that I have learned within my career and life in general, relationships matter. Good relationships are built on trust among people. The more you can focus on the good within your co-workers, clients, supervisors, and even family and friends, the easier it is to be vocal about what you appreciate about them. Who doesn’t welcome being appreciated?
2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people have less aches and pains and self report feeling healthier than others. Apparently, gratitude also helps to better endure the 5:30am workouts that someone (me) committed to because of the Division’s plan for self-care (See September’s message).
3. Gratitude improves psychological health. An intentional moment of gratitude increases the release of several hormones and neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin increases feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and optimism. Having a rough day? Break for some gratitude.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. During this year’s annual staff meeting, I challenged us all to have grace for ourselves and others as we work through the complexities of human services daily. It is inevitable that we will all make a mistake in action or word at some point. If you adopt an attitude of gratitude, it is far more likely that you will react in a way that heals and moves the team (and yourself) forward in a positive, productive way.
5. Grateful people sleep better. Thanksgiving > Insomnia. Is there any debate here?
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. One of the greatest superpowers of gratitude is how it can make you feel better about yourself. When we feel good about our own abilities and potential, we maximize our performance at work and home. Gratitude also reduces the likelihood of comparing yourself to others and minimizing your awesome unique skill set and contribution to the team. Gratitude helps you to remember that you are indeed a rock star!
7. Gratitude increases resilience. As a Vietnam Veteran, my father has told countless stories about the horrors of war and conflict. Even as he struggled through those years and the years after returning home, the one thing that kept him was his being focused on gratitude for his family, friends, and faith. No one is immune to challenges and difficulties, whether here at work or in your personal life. Building up a reserve of gratitude can help you to face those inevitable moments with resilience and hope.
I am hopeful that moving forward, each of us will commit to activating our gratitude individually and collectively every day. As we move towards a culture of gratitude, the better positioned we will be to best serve Shelby County and her families, children, and individuals.
Dorcas Young Griffin
Director of the Division of Community Services
Shelby County Government