“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”
The holiday card that the Perla Group sent out this year states:
During this season of gratitude and celebration,
we acknowledge those who have made our
success possible. In this spirit, we say thank you.
May peace be with you and yours
in this coming year, as well as a prayer for our world.
Yes, indeed it is the season of celebration: Celebrating the past year, our successes and accomplishments, what we cherish and hold dear—what gives meaning to our lives. Not only acknowledging these successes is key, however, taking time to express thanks is most crucial.
Who has not seen the movie, “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and (my favorite) Danny Kaye? It is one elaborate production of song and dance and GRATITUDE. The two army buddies take time from their holiday gigs to remember a general who lead them during their wartime experiences and who inspired them to move through life with courage and grace. You may not go through the bother of renting a Vermont Inn to express thanks and gratitude to someone this season, however, think about taking time to formally express thanks to someone who you appreciate.
Research in positive psychology is demonstrating that the habitually grateful among us are happier than those who are not. Now there is a reason to express gratitude each day: you might wind up feeling and being a happier person.
What workplace would not be lighter and happier if colleagues formally expressed thanks for a job well done or for a gesture of kindness? I can still remember a memo that a colleague of mine wrote back in 1984 to my superior commenting on how my service to the hospital unit was a valuable asset to his staff. Completely unsolicited, and yet, it added incredible support and encouragement to my sense of professional esteem. A gesture I treasure and still remember to this day.
Take away: One of the most powerful positive psychology exercises is the Gratitude Letter. This exercise asks you to think of someone, parents, teachers, employers, teammates, etc., who have been kind to you but who never heard you express your gratitude. Write a letter of gratitude, describing in concrete terms why you are grateful. Delivering the letter in person and having the person read the letter in your presence delivers the most powerful experience. Mailing or faxing the letter and following it up with a phone call can be an alternative and as moving. Expressing your gratitude in words and actions not only boosts your own positive emotion but those of the recipient as well. In this process, we not only reinforce their kindness but also positively strengthen the bond of the relationship.
McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., Emmons, R.A. & Larson, D.B. “Gratitude as moral affect.” Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249-266.
Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Selgman, Martin. Authentic Happiness. Free Press, 2002.