Fall is the most beautiful season, I think, with the smells of musky earth permeating our noses and a kaleidoscope of colours dancing on tree leaves before they tumble to the ground. Harvest is a time to relish the abundance that we are so blessed to have. What I appreciate most about the season though is the annual reminder.
Yes, we need a statutory holiday to remind us to be grateful. While colonial settlers once celebrated good harvests, we now need Thanksgiving in our ever-so-busy lives to remind us that expressions of gratitude are essential to our well-being.
Two psychologists, Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much research on gratitude, proving that those who write about things they are grateful for on a weekly basis are more optimistic and feel better about their lives. Dr. Martin Seligman, the positive psychology guru and a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has also proved an association between gratitude, performance and an individual’s well-being.
As much as I love the annual reminder to be grateful in this uber-busy world, I think we should practise gratitude more frequently the rest of the year — not just at home with our families on Thanksgiving but in all aspects of our lives, including work. By appreciating each other at work, whether through acknowledging a direct report, a superior or a colleague, we boost performance, increase engagement and make ourselves feel good in the process.
Researchers at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, have demonstrated that when a manager tells their employees that he or she is grateful for their efforts, those employees perform 50% better than employees whose managers did not make any gratitude statements.
At my Thanksgiving table, I have witnessed the tremendous psychological effect of expressing appreciation. Happiness and other emotions are immediately felt, whether you are the giver or the receiver of the positive recognition. Gratitude creates good feelings, cheerful memories, and better self-esteem and feelings of optimism all around. All of these emotions create a “we’re in this together” mentality, which in the workplace makes your organization more successful.
While my heart continues to be full from this year’s Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the practices that I have used in the past to promote gratitude, and that I need to continue to use them. Here are some of the ideas. Use them in your appreciation plan, at home and at work, for you and your team:
Thank-you note. Make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Create a habit of sending one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. When you don’t have time to write a note, just think about a person who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank him or her.
Keep a gratitude journal. Pick a regular time to write down three to five blessings a week by reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Meditate or Pray. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgement. Although people often focus on a word, phrase, or sound such as “Om”, you can also think about what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, the sound of a babbling brook). You can also use religious prayer to cultivate gratitude.