I look forward to that wonderful stuffed feeling I’ll get this Thursday. You and I can’t do that every day, but we can go a long way to sustaining in ourselves and others the joy that comes on the day on which we give thanks.
Two weeks ago I wrote about Professor Kim Cameron’s great little book Positive Leadership: Strategies For Extraordinary Performance. One of the driving forces in positive leadership is an abundance of thanks giving. Cameron cites the work of one of his colleagues, Robert A. Emmons who teaches at UC Davis. Emmons has been doing research on thankfulness, which he summarized in his book last year, How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. As part of his research Emmons randomly assigns adults to three journal-writing groups. One is asked to daily journal 3 things they are grateful for that day, the second group journals some of the hassles or irritations of the day, and the third group is asked to write about “things that had a major impact on them.” The results of gratitude journaling are stunning.
Emmons described the results from the thankfulness journal group in this way: We “saw a positive effect on hours of sleep and on time spent exercising, on more optimistic expectations for the coming week, and fewer reported physical symptoms, such as pain. Additionally, we observed an increase in reported connectedness to other people and in likelihood of helping another person deal with a personal problem.”* The positive-journalers were as much as 25% happier, and were not only happy relative to the complainers but even to the neutral group. Remarkably, Emmons found sustained, positive results after people had been gratitude-journaling for four nights a week for as short as three weeks time.
Emmons and Cameron both find that giving thanks to someone else, and not just for them, has doubly positive benefits. Not only does the giver of thanks feel better, but there is also what Cameron calls a virtuous effect: those who are thanked are much more prone to thank others in turn. The result: not a vicious, but a virtuous cycle.
So, wait til Thursday for the turkey, but start giving thanks today and tomorrow and Wednesday, to
Lead with your best self!