As we head into the holiday season, many of us stop and take stock of the good things in our lives. A day set apart to give thanks, such as America’s Thanksgiving holiday in November, is a beautiful addition to any calendar.
A friend of mine swears by keeping a gratitude journal, noting that it really has helped improve her attitude and helped her focus on the good things in her life. For a period of time in early 2017, I tried to do the same. Here’s a sample of what I recorded:
• “I am thankful for a fun evening with my silly, happy kids.”
• “I’m thankful for the beauty of snow.”
• “I am thankful for a good meal turning a bad day around.”
• “I’m thankful for the comfort of friendship and the opportunity to rest.”
• “Today I am thankful for clean running water, plus my dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.”
• “On a stressful day like today, I am thankful for my snuggly bed.”
• “I’m grateful for my job — it gives me satisfaction, and I really enjoy my co-workers.”
According to an online article on Harvard Health, “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.”
There’s plenty of research to back that up. In a study conducted by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, a group of participants was asked to write about things they were grateful for that had happened that week, the Harvard Health article said. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that upset them. A third group wrote about events that had affected them but with no positive or negative emphasis.
The result? After 10 weeks, those who kept track of things they were thankful for were more optimistic and had a stronger sense of well-being. They also exercised more and went to the doctor less than those who wrote about their aggravations.
And gratitude can do wonders when shared. A study by researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania saw a difference in effort when managers expressed gratitude to their employees. In this study, university fundraisers were divided into two groups. The first group called and solicited alumni donations as usual. The second group, coming in on a different day, got a pep talk from their manager, who told them she was grateful for their efforts. Over the next week, the group that received the pep talk made 50% more fundraising calls than the other group. Just think about how something similar might affect your employees.
Expressing gratitude — whether writing it down or telling someone how thankful you are for them — can reap dividends. Let’s all try to make it a practice this month and beyond.