Make Thanksgiving an Everyday Holiday
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday of November be set aside as a day of Thanksgiving. Although Congress changed the day to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941, the intent remained the same. Our national holiday was meant to count our blessings.
Sadly this observance of gratitude has turned into a day of gorging ourselves and watching football. Granted, most of us do those activities with family and friends, but for many “giving thanks” is a hastily run-through grace before dinner. “Good food-good meat-good Lord-let's eat.” When the Pilgrims ate the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621, they were being thankful even though they had seen horrific tragedies from the very beginning of their experiment in this new land.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that psychologists did not study until the last decade. The traditional focus was, what’s wrong and how do we fix it? Positive psychology is a relatively young field of study that uses the scientific method to determine how things go right. Today, millions of dollars in grants are awarded to research how feelings of gratitude improve physical health and psychological well-being. We now know that making time to think about those things we’re grateful for can really lend perspective and lift our spirits. And gratitude can be cultivated to increase levels of happiness.
Beyond proving that being grateful makes you feel better, psychologists have found that there is a physiological component behind gratitude. Neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the blood are connected to feelings of gratitude. It seems that the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is also associated with positive emotions like love and compassion, are a key spot. And giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself.
One of the reasons why gratitude works so well is that it connects us with others. Think about what life would be like without the good things - especially people such as spouses and children - in your life and how you are grateful they are there. It really does shift your attitude and perspective. Gratitude also serves as a stress buffer. Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states. As a result they feel more alert, alive, interested, and enthusiastic.
Imagine how different your workday would be if all your staff expressed genuine appreciation for each other. With the power of gratitude at your disposal, you can bring a new spirit of appreciation into your practice. True appreciation isn’t just a perfunctory "thank you." It's a meaningful gesture backed by sincerity of purpose that involves intentionality and feelings. Gratitude is appreciation for the little things, an emotion that opens us up to seeing life in a more positive light.
Here’s a simple activity that can reset you and your team. Assign your employees the task of sharing three things for which they are grateful. Make a schedule so that each person (including you) has a day when s/he shares their “gratitude list.” It might be at the morning huddle to start the day on a positive note. You will be amazed at what you hear and how much you will learn about your staff. It can become a really special part of your day, and it will make a difference.
We’re fortunate to have a special day to reflect on all the good in our lives. And we can train our brain to think about positives and not just the negatives. Grumbling can become a habit, and looking at the positive can become a habit too! If you’re squirming as you read this, now might be the perfect time to make a commitment to think of three new things you are grateful for daily and write these down for 30 days. What’s there to lose? There may be a lot to gain. Cultivate gratitude and make Thanksgiving a way of life.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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