At Thanksgiving dinner my family does what many families do—we go around the table and share what we are thankful for. Not surprisingly, on the top of our lists are people. Family and friends support us, sustain us, and enrich our lives. There is much to be thankful for. In my family, as with most, the people we are most grateful for are the people sitting at the table. It feels good to hear why our loved ones are thankful for us—why they value us. My husband and I are both behavioral psychologists, so we don’t allow vague statements like, “I am thankful for Dad.” We prompt pinpointing. “What does Dad do that you are grateful for?” I encourage you to do the same. It takes the ritual to a whole new level.
While it is wonderful to hear what we do that loved ones are grateful for, it also feels good to do the telling. In fact, the act of listing what we are grateful for has been shown to be good for our emotional health. There are gratitude journals and meditation practices focused on gratitude because deliberately articulating what we are grateful for improves our sense of wellbeing and happiness. While using a gratitude journal or meditation are excellent practices (I have done both myself), there is another way to practice daily gratitude that not only improves our own lives, but the lives of others. Make the gratitude public, like we do at Thanksgiving. When you are grateful for what others do, tell them (and be specific). Once you get in the habit, it is easy to spot behaviors every day that you are thankful for. At ADI we promote the use of positive reinforcement as a tool to strengthen important behaviors that improve business results. We call this the “business case for positive reinforcement.” But there are so many other benefits to positive reinforcement, and a big one is that it increases our own feelings of wellbeing and happiness when we use it. Given the stress and negativity surrounding us over the past several months, something that improves behavior, makes others feel good, and makes us feel good is most certainly worth doing more often. Perhaps a good tradition to add to this holiday is a Thanksgiving Resolution—a resolution to give more thanks.