“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
– William Arthur Ward, Inspirational Writer
We love gratitude at KeithKarabin.com. We’ve written about how it doesn’t suck, and last year we wrote about how even when it sucks, it is still an awesome part of daily Street Level Wellness, not just on Thanksgiving Day.
In fact, we would probably be mean, egotistical jerks if we were grateful only once a year.
As noted by Dr. Becker-Phelps, gratitude can make us happier, more optimistic, have stronger relationships, be more giving, more consistent in exercise and sleep better. We will feel more connected with a greater purpose in life and better able to cope with life transitions, if we are more thankful (2011).
It works for kids, too “Of particular note,” she said, is that “children who tend to be grateful are less materialistic, get better grades, and set higher goals. And, those who are unhappy are helped to be happier by becoming more grateful.”
But she also noted that living gratefully is “often easier to say…than it is to actually feel it; or to consistently [do it.] But this can be done… with effort” (Becker-Phelps, 2011).
Just like any practice, as we live gratefully it becomes easier to live gratefully, but we actually begin to experience another side effect—we become more grateful and inspire gratitude in others. We simply have more to be thankful for as our lives improve and our ability to find things to appreciate increases, and our attitude becomes infections to those around us. Thus we build a Gratitude Engine; an environment of self-sustaining thankfulness.
Building Our Gratitude Engine
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
– Thornton Wilder, Novelist
They say that positive habits can be built (Karabin, 2012). But they don’t exactly agree on how long it takes—20 to 30 repetitions seems to be a good general rule. Which means that here in November, the Thanksgiving month, we have the perfect opportunity to build a thankfulness habit. We can build our very own Gratitude Engine with one action a day from now until the end of the month! We’ve spent articles on the “Why to” be more grateful but let’s get creative in the “How to.” How to build gratitude engines in ourselves, our workplaces and our social circles—every aspect of our lives.
Dr. Becker-Phelps offers gratitude journaling, and that is a tried-and-true classic; it works. Today we offer even more suggestions, with the hope of building a habit of gratitude over this month of Thanksgiving. If we start today that’s 26 daily repetitions of a single gratitude-increasing action and right in the sweet spot of how to build the behavior. The more creative the action, the stronger we build.
Making a visual gratitude journal using digital means like Pinterest, Instagram, or a tactile activity like a collage, scrap book or sketching is a great way to take the tried-and-true concept and spice it up a bit. Anything online has the chance of garnering positive feedback and support, which further increases the behavior, and anything tactile gets more of your mind and body involved for further reinforcement and satisfaction.
If we really want to get creative, try an audio journal. This one by DJ Ruckus Roboticus, is “a musical tribute to all the people and things Ruckus is thankful for everyday (not just on Thanksgiving!)” according to the Solid Steel Radio Show (2011). The eclectic mix has inspired nearly 7,500 plays, likes and a degree of reciprocity in the comments like “inspired mix!” and “I’m thankful for Ruckus Roboticus!” It’s like a gratitude playlist, or mix CD that can refuel our gratitude engine when the tank runs low over the month of November and beyond.
Let’s face it, we should be grateful that we’re employed, but often we lose sight of that in the daily stress-fest. That’s a sure-fire way for resentment to build. Gratitude is truly not for ourselves, it’s to be given, and what better place to start than at work. “In a workplace committed to creating an attitude of gratitude and employee recognition on a daily basis, every day should be Thanksgiving Day” said Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield (2016).
Not only do we feel good when we are grateful (see the articles linked above) but it motivates our employees and co-workers. “Motivated employees do a better job of serving customers well. Happy customers buy more products and are committed to using your services. More customers buying more products and services increases your company’s profitability and success. It’s an endless possibilities circle.” She has 40 suggestions to build gratitude at work but, in short, it goes beyond the bonus. “Employee recognition is best approached creatively. While money is an important way to say thank you, once money is spent, it is easily forgotten” but gratitude fosters a thankful environment. Mrs. Heathfield has 40 suggestions of how to say “Thank You” at work which go beyond the bonus, that’s plenty to try one a day from now until November 30. Let’s see what happens at our job when we do!
In our Social Circle
The “thank you’s” hopefully flow easiest in our social circles. But if not, here are 45 different ways. Seriously.
Amber from Crazy Little Projects (2015) has put together 25 ways to give thank you gifts that we simply print out and embellish as we chose. There are plenty of puns involving candy like a “You’re a Lifesaver!” tag or a “Thanks a Latte!” gift pack.
J.S. Wayne (2012) “a male romance writer without apologies” and influential Lifehack journalist penned a piece with 20 active gratitude methods with such crucial relationship actions as “Listen to them…Show them some love…Reciprocate…Be there for them” or more overt gestures like “Give a toast,” “Make a YouTube video” or “Pay it forward” which ensures that the Gratitude Engine keeps growing.
However we do it, November can be the month when our Gratitude Engine was built, one action at a time. As it springs to life, so too will our life, and our attitude spring up, our happiness increase and our stress-response decrease. We will eat better, exercise more and feel more content.
Now that’s a life to be thankful for.
Amber (2015) 25 Creative ways to say Thank You. Crazy Little Projects. Retrieved from: http://crazylittleprojects.com/2015/01/25-creative-ways-say-thank.html
Becker-Phelps (2011) Preparing for Thanksgiving… And a Healthier, Happier You. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/making-change/201111/preparing-thanksgiving-and-healthier-happier-you
Heathfield (2016) 40 Ways to Say Thank You at Work. The Balance. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalance.com/ways-to-say-thank-you-at-work-1917992
Solid Steel Radio Show (2011) NinjaTune, Soundcloud.com Retrieved from: https://soundcloud.com/ninja-tune/solid-steel-radio-show-18-11
Wayne (2012) 20 Creative ways to say Thank You. Life Hack. Retrieved from: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-creative-ways-say-thank-you.html