The Hidden Link Between Gratitude and Reaching Your Goals

This overlooked habit can improve your health and well-being.

Klever LeveL/ Shutterstock
Klever LeveL/ Shutterstock

Expressing gratitude makes us (and the people we’re grateful for) feel good, but did you know it can also help us achieve our goals? In a recent episode of the podcast “Hidden Brain,” David DeSteno, Ph.D. psychologist and professor at Northeastern University, explains how building a practice of gratitude can improve our decision-making and our overall mindset. 

Here’s how it works: Our emotions, like gratitude, play a role in how we act in any situation that’s thrown our way. When we feel grateful, DeStano explains, it alters the way our brain processes the scenario. As an example, DeStano talks about one of his students, Lisa Williams, a former rower. At first, it was difficult for Williams to wake up before sunrise to practice rowing on the Columbia River, Destano says — but she took pride in being a part of the rowing team, and felt a sense of gratitude each day when she woke up, went to practice, and didn’t let her team down. That sense of pride and unity stopped her from hitting “snooze” each morning when it was time for practice. 

When we take on a mindset of gratitude, we can all reach our goals. And the more small gratitude-building habits we bring into our lives, the better off we are. “Rather than see all emotions as the enemy of reaching our goals,” DeSanto insists, “emotions could in fact help us reach our goals.”

To incorporate gratitude into your daily routine, try these Microsteps: 

Write down three things you’re grateful for before bed. This has been shown to lower your stress levels and bring you a greater sense of calm.

Put away your phone and look up while commuting or running errands. Unplugging while on the move will help you connect with people, sights, and scenes around you — and take stock of what you’re grateful for.

Once each day, compliment a co-worker on their work. It’s a great way to strengthen work bonds, express gratitude, and show others that you value their contributions.

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