If You Don't Have Something To Be Thankful For, Fake It

Gratitude Is There If You Look For It -- And It Makes For Healthier Lives And Better Workplaces

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Kind's #kindawesome campaign
Kind's #kindawesome campaign Credit: KIND Snacks

Over the next few days, chances are you will take a moment to consider what you are thankful for, whether by choice or because it is the ritual of your Thanksgiving feast.

Even if you're faking it, try to come up with something. It could have a tremendous benefit.

My colleague, Brent, and his wife, Chrissie, embarked on a "gratefulness" journey several months ago. Brent told a few of us about it over drinks one night, and joked about how they were now being grateful for everything – they were grateful when someone cut them off while driving in traffic, as they were giving them the opportunity to get to where they were going first ... which was obviously more important than anything Brent and Chrissie were doing.

Upon arriving at their ski mountain destination, they were grateful to discover their son had left his jacket at home. This gave them the opportunity to get a refresher on how retail markups work at the resort ski shop. The list went on and on. While there was certainly a high degree of snark involved in this exercise, as the discussion went on it became clear that the act of being even sarcastically grateful at times kept the idea of gratitude top of mind, giving them the opportunity to laugh more about things that normally would have caused them aggravation or stress.

Just one look at the headlines of the day and you begin to appreciate any activities that can reduce stress, and gratitude has been clinically proven to do just that. Paul Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, conducted a study that assessed how grateful people are in all areas of their life and compared it to the health of their hearts. The study showed that the people who are most grateful had the healthiest hearts. He went on to explain that stress, anxiety and depression can be reduced through gratitude.

Kind Snacks celebrated World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, by asking us to show gratitiude to people for doing kind acts. They sent out kits, created in partnership with The Barbarian Group, which included cards to be shared, letting people know that you thought they were #kindawesome. A code on the card could be redeemed for two Kind Bars. This allowed Kind to build its database, but more importantly it made people smile. I know this first hand as I shared them with colleagues around my office throughout the day.

But studies show that when it comes to our colleagues, we don't show gratitude often enough. A study by the John Templeton Foundation from 2013 reported that saying "thank you" to colleagues makes people feel happier and more fulfilled, but of the 2,000 Americans surveyed, 60% said they either never expressed gratitude at work or do so only about once a year. A full 70% said they would feel better about themselves if their boss was more grateful and 81% said they would work harder.

A number of #thanksgivingpotluck posts showed up in my Facebook feed last week from companies celebrating early Thanksgiving rituals with their colleagues. It made me wonder if there is a growing trend among organizations taking a moment to show gratitude to their colleagues, who, in many cases, spend more time with coworkers than their families. Let's keep it going beyond the confines of the holiday. As Brent and Chrissie proved, we can always find something to be grateful for.

And we don't need to limit it to World Kindness Day, either. The next time a colleague does something even slightly delightful or remotely helpful, let them know. It might make you both feel #kindawesome.

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