Hello! Thanks for taking the time to read this. No, really. Thank you. We know you could be doing something else, but you chose to take ten-ish minutes of your time to read this post, and for that, we thank you. Every second you spend reading what we have to offer you makes us feel so good inside that we can’t ever express it. Through whatever struggles you’re dealing with right now, just know that you matter to more people than you will ever know possible. You’re awesome.
Did that make you feel good? We hope so. All of that’s true, by the way. But we all know that being thankful in our daily lives is hard to actually do. There’s a ton of bad drivers, annoying coworkers and life problems out there — it’s easy to lose track of the things you have, and the people that make you live every day. We’re going to talk a little bit about how being thankful can make your work life better on top of everything else.
1. Thankful Thursdays
The Wright Brothers Inc. staff holds what some might call a strange tradition: Thankful Thursdays. And no, it’s not an elementary school-type coloring exercise. Thankful Thursdays are no joke. In fact, they’re the most dead-serious company exercises I’ve ever been a part of.
This month the whole team gathered a list all of the people, based around categories, whom they would like to thank. We start our list pretty normally; we list longtime clients, building staff, and other part-time WBI members. From there it gets a bit personal with family, friends, significant others, etc. And from there it just gets weird: our office dog Titan, dogs (in general), cats, exes, haters, Tupac Shakur, our long-lost heroes, beer brands, TV shows.
After everything is up on the board, we take a good chunk of time to write out fully-fledged thank-you notes to as many of these people as we can. It was around this point that I realized how legitimate this exercise was, and that my list (which included my parents and sister, two college friends and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes) was way, way too big.
So how did I wind up not only finishing all of them, but then end up slamming through the rest of my work in record time and enduring traffic with a smile on my face? Well, it turns out that being grateful and expressing your gratitude is some sort of Popeye Spinach for the soul. And that’s definitely no joke.
2. Being Thankful Is A Medicine — And We’ve Got The Science To Prove It
Believe it or not, there’s actual science behind your favorite Thanksgiving Day mutterings. Thanks to a series of 2003 studies from Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough, we have evidence that being thankful not only makes you feel better in general, but that you’ll also experience direct health benefits. Bear with me here: there’s quite a lot of jargon in an academic paper like this one, but a good chunk of it stands out. “The advantages [of gratitude] are most pronounced when compared with a focus on hassles or complaints, yet are still apparent in comparison with simply reflecting the major events in one’s life.” Hear that? Even in just a simple reflection (or work exercise) can work wonders.
And boy, are there some serious wonders here. Participants in the “gratitude group” of Emmons’ study reported that they felt better about their upcoming week, believed that they were more connected to people, and even reported a better outlook on life. They also reported better sleeping habits, less stress and maybe even better exercise habits. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves — the study only covered an observation period of about two weeks, hence why Emmons and McCullough aren’t badgering 24-Hour Fitness with this paper. But it’s clear that the science backs up what we feel whenever we genuinely say “thanks.”
Emmons’ analysis at the end of the paper (which you can read in full at the bottom) admits that gratitude might not be classifiable as a complete, whole attribute. There are specific traits to being “grateful” that we still need to discover. But there’s a ton there to chew on, and it’s all delicious.
3. Showing Appreciation = Better You
Look, it’s not easy to thank people. I mean, really thank people. Sure, we mutter “thank you”s to people who hold open elevator doors for us (shoutout to our wonderful Symphony Towers doormen), and give friendly waves to people who let us merge into traffic (if you’re not one of those people, you should be). That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I’m talking about the kind of thank-yous that come from the heart. They take recalled memories. They might take eye-contact. Above all they take effort. That doesn’t happen out of nowhere.
But they work wonders because it’s so hard. One of the friends to whom I sent my thank-you note is on the road and out of regular contact, currently wondering what the next phase in his life is. I sent him a three-paragraph email that basically mapped out everything he had done for me in the brief two years I’ve known him. How much I was thankful for him to be there for me, providing an example for me to follow, whether or not he knew he was doing so.
I got his response nearly two weeks after Thankful Thursdays, and while I wish I could share how incredible it was for both of us and how much better I felt after reading it, I’d never be able to replicate those feelings for you. The best way you can do that is to show your own appreciation to those people in your life.
Even if you don’t hold a Thankful Thursday of your own, there’s plenty of ways to show appreciation. Connecting with people in your company definitely makes for a better work environment. (Take our word for it.) But don’t limit yourself. Here are some other ways you can get your gratitude on:
Set aside some time:
Even if you just set aside a half hour to get on the phone with your parents, shoot an email to an old college professor, or drop a postcard for Taylor Swift in your outgoing mail, it’ll work wonders. Not to mention, it’ll get you back on your work game fast.
Make conversation, and make conversation opportunities:
Make conversation with your coworkers. Stick a sticky note with an embarrassing amount of smiley faces on their computer when they’re not looking. Organize a weekly Happy Hour run or potluck lunch. Make those inside jokes last a lifetime, people. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
It’s far easier to thank your best friends, or the coworkers you really get along with. But try to tackle the ones whom you don’t get along with first. Making an honest effort to thank them for the things they’ve done for you — no matter how small — can get both of you set on the road to reconciliation, cooperation, and maybe even friendship. Have them over for dinner, seriously. Get to a bar. Make time outside of work (see above) to see if, gasp, both of you have more in common than you previously thought.
Thanks for reading!
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389 [Full text PDF]
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