By Chris Croll
Studies have shown that expressing gratitude improves physical and mental health, reduces aggression, helps you sleep better, and fosters closer relationships with others.Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has demonstrated through various studies that gratitude effectively increases happiness.
There is no better time of the year to engage in the practice of gratitude than the month of November. Here are a few suggestions for how you can express thanks as we head into a winter that could be long, dark, cold, and particularly isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Write a letter of gratitude to someone you have never thanked.In the letter, describe in specific terms how this person helped you, why you are grateful, and how this person’s behavior has impacted your life. Consider writing the letter by hand and mailing it through the US Postal Service rather than sending an email. The effort you took to jot down your thanks, find a stamp and mail the letter will enhance the impact of the note (especially considering most of us find only bills and catalogs in our mailboxes this time of year).
Insofar as whom to thank…it can be a relative, friend, teacher, coach, or even someone you do not know personally but who has impacted you in a positive way. Do not fret about perfect grammar or spelling—your note is not being graded (unless you are thanking an English teacher…in that case, run the spell checker!)
Say “thank you” to colleagues.Taking a moment at the end of a Zoom call or work shift to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed how hard you are working lately and I want you to know I really appreciate it,” can not only make your coworker’s day brighter but will also make you feel good.
If you manage a staff at work, taking the time to acknowledge individual contributions to the business is a form of gratitude that not only benefits you but also the company’s bottom line.A study by career site Glassdoor revealed thatmorethan 80 percent ofemployeessay they aremotivated to work harderwhen their boss shows appreciation for theirwork.
Channel your inner BrenéBrown.In a recent interview Brown said, “You don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” Focusing on all the good things we have going for us is another form of expressing thanks.Say out loud what you are grateful for each day. Gratitude is a form of positive energy which acts like a boomerang…if you send it out into the universe, it comes back to you.
Some people keep a mini white board on the fridge, and at the end of each day, they write down what they are grateful for that day. The next day when they wake up, they are greeted with the previous day’s thanks which set the tone for another day focused on gratitude.
Share a happy memory.By writing down a happy memory, you are, in a sense, reliving that experience which can make you happy all over again. Once you have the story down on paper, share it with someone else. You will feel transported back to that event, and you will be inviting the other person to that happy place with you. Sharing happy memories is a recognition that you are grateful to have had the experience.
These are just a few suggestions for how you can use gratitude to energize, heal, transform, and bring you closer to others. As you sit around the Thanksgiving table this month, give thanks not just for the bounty before you but for all the wonderful things in your life.
Thank you for reading my column (gratitude!) and Happy Thanksgiving!
[Chris Croll is a writer, community activist and former member of the Loudoun County School Board (Catoctin District). She lives in Leesburg with her husband and two children.]