The Psychological Benefits of Gratitude

I just returned from several days of training at BCG headquarters. I am already applying much of what I learned and feel fortunate to work for a company that values investing in its employees. As the New Year approaches, I am also reminded that I have a lot of other reasons to be grateful. My early New Year’s resolution is to spend more time feeling gratitude.

Ellen Ostrow published a nice piece on the subject around Thanksgiving. In her newsletter, she commented on the the positive benefits of feeling gratitude. People who express gratitude are generally happier. Ellen also cites psychological research which demonstrates that “people who who experience relatively more positive (joy, interest, pride) than negative (anger, fear, envy) emotions are more successful and accomplished across most areas of their lives.”

The implications for lawyers are profound. Many lawyers spend a lot of their day identifying things that can go wrong. This means that lawyers need to work extra hard to counteract the negative emotions that are a part of ordinary legal practice. I do not believe that the two are inconsistent (i.e. happiness and practicing law); but pervasive negativity is an occupational hazard for attorneys and we all need to recognize this in order to deal more effectively with the problem.

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