Grateful people are the people most of us like to be around. You know the type. They’re positive. They have an easy laugh and a ready smile. It seems as if they see the world differently than we do. For the most part, they do.
When there’s a box of donuts at the nurse’s station donated by a kind patient, they are happy for the sugar. The grateful nurses never look in that box filled with sweet happiness and say aloud for all near and far to hear: “Hmmm. Only two jelly donuts? And there’s hardly any jelly in them. Figures.”
Got the picture? Which type are you? Are you a “jelly donut is half full” or a “jelly donut is half empty” kind of nurse?
Cicero, the ancient philosopher, said of gratitude that it is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all others. Being grateful doesn’t mean you’re a mindless zombie who walks around with a perpetual smile on her face. Gratitude is simply a mind-set where one makes a choice to be thankful for the good in this world. As a nurse, think about the abundance of things you can be grateful for.
I talk about gratitude in my book, Inspired Nurse, and extensively in the talks I give around the country. I find it’s one of the paths to inspiration that most people are resistant to at first, but then come around to feeling that it makes a huge impact. To paraphrase Cicero, all the positive aspects of your life, your virtues, stem from gratitude.
So, how can you use gratitude as a tool to build a more inspired “you”? Here’s your “work” for the next month or so:
- Today, make a list of things you’re most grateful for about being a nurse and about your workplace. Most people start with things like working with great people, comforting patients, knowing I make a difference, always learning…you get the picture. Start with three things on your list. If you’re feeling really negative lately and this is harder than you thought it would be, start with the basics. You know, things like indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, half-price Easter chocolate in the gift shop…whatever it takes! Start with three things, and for the next month, have a goal to add just one thing you’re grateful about each day. That’s all. Just one a day. If you can squeeze out a few more, go for it.
- This month, find three people at work you’re grateful for. Those folks who always make you smile, help you out, support you. The ones whose names you look for on the schedule when you’re going to sign up for overtime, because you know if you’ve got to spend an extra shift at work, you’d rather work with them. Then write these three people thank-you notes. Let them know what they mean to you, how much you like working with them and how much you appreciate them. Take your time writing these. Do your best to specifically express your gratitude. You’ll find this is an exercise that will do even more for you than it does for the recipient of your note.
Have you ever said, “No one appreciates me”? Come on. We’ve all said it either out loud or in our minds. Here’s the funny thing about gratitude: The more you want it, the more you want it. The more you give it, the less you need it.
The other thing about gratitude is that it causes you to see things differently. You become more aware of the good. Have you ever heard an unusual name? Let’s say you meet someone named Zeus. You think, “I’ve never met anyone named Zeus before.” Then strangely enough, that day in the store you hear someone call out to her toddler, “Zeus, you get back here!” A week later, your child brings home a friend to study with and introduces you to his friend Zeus. Is it that suddenly people just started naming their kids Zeus? No. You’ve just become more aware of the name Zeus, and because of that, it becomes more obvious to you.
Guess what? It’s the same with gratitude. When you start to look for it, when you choose to use it, when you talk about and think about it, you’ll suddenly find you’re more grateful. People will begin to see you in a different light. Challenges become less severe. Work becomes a little less stressful. You’ll begin to see things differently. You’ll feel more inspired. You’ll see that there’s enough jelly in your donut and you’ll find that being grateful makes for a much sweeter life.
If you don’t have gratitude, get some. It’s well worth the effort. Be well. Stay inspired.
[main image: Thomas Barwick | Digital Vision | Getty Images]