Think Before You Thank

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One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is never to forget to say “Thank You!”

When someone is generous and gives you a gift, a note to say they care, their time… When someone is helpful – shoveling your sidewalk, holding the door for you, or dropping off a meal when you’ve lost a loved one or are ill.

But sadly, two events happened last week that got me thinking not only about the importance and significance of saying THANK YOU, but what happens when people are left out.

The first eye-opener happened last Friday evening. I had accompanied a group of high school students I work with on a service project to help pack meals formulated for malnourished children in West Africa, and dozens of countries across the globe.

The teens I work with live in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence, unemployment and statistics that weigh heavily against them:  less than half of teenager’s graduate high school and only one-tenth advance to college.  Yet, twice a month, they volunteer their Wednesday or Friday nights to help other children across the world less fortunate than them. On most of these volunteer nights, they are joined by four or five other new groups of students – Boy Scout troops, basketball teams from neighboring high schools and church youth clubs.

On this evening, as it happened a few weeks before, the organizers of the relief organization gave a huge shout-out and round of applause to all of the teen groups who manned the almost two-hour packing shift, except for the 14 teens with me. As we were walking to the bus, one of the girls, a junior, said to me: “”Why don’t they ever cheer for us?” It seems like they don’t appreciate us.”

It stung the students. As the round of kudos were being called out, I watched their smiles waiting in anticipation of hearing their school name and the round of applause and then burst like a balloon in the silence. These are amazing kids who face amazing odds and are doing amazing things.  A thank you is a simple way to tell them.

The second event that underscored the “thank you don’ts” happened on Facebook. Who’s to say that virtual slights don’t cause the same pain as the up-close, in-person kind.

A “friend-of-a-friend” posted a lengthy thank you on Facebook naming a long list of people and specific acts of kindness they had done recently during her loved one’s hospital stay, but not mentioning someone who had been omnipresent with their support and caring during the several weeks involved. The omission rang off the FB post like a siren. I hurt for the person who wasn’t named, because I knew how hard she had tried to be present.

The bottom line is that saying thank you is an art. It is something we need to learn to do with grace, kindness and thoughtfulness. I’ve learned that if you are going to name names, it’s best to be 100 percent certain that you have been inclusive, because the name that isn’t said can inflict more harm than not saying thank you to all.

It’s important to acknowledge the generous spirits and kindness bestowed to us by others. It’s really a simple idea- people like to feel appreciated. This post asks that we think before we thank, just to be sure.

-Mary Beth Sammons

Listful Thinking: Is Gratitude on Your List?

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ListfulThinking_hiresI recently read Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo and so much of it made me think about the importance of listing blessings when setting out on a grateful life journey, as well as the benefits that accrue when doing so.

According to the author, something as simple as creating a grocery list can reduce anxiety, boost your brain power, improve focus, increase self esteem and organize your thoughts.

Listful Thinking, which is divided into chapters that cover work, lifestyle, home life, and more, is chock-full of time saving apps and websites. Her tips and suggestions have a huge payoff — in addition to the grocery list benefits listed above, this book can help you save time and money. As someone who takes a lot of trips, I particularly loved Paula’s section on “Must-Have Items to Pack When You Travel”.

The other fact that resonated with me is that list making eliminates a lot of clutter in your thoughts, and frees you to focus on the larger picture. Which is exactly what thankfulness and appreciation does: it takes the focus away from thinking “what if”, “why me” or “what’s next” and helps one to arrive at a state of acceptance which frees up the mind for positive action.

Paula, an Emmy Award-winning television producer in New York City and founder of ListProducer.com, admits she has glazomania, a passion for making lists. She attributes her success to list making, and also includes other busy people like Madonna, Martha Stewart, Richard Branson, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Ben Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci in her list of list makers. Speaking of busy, she quotes a statistic from the Families and Work Institute which found that more than half all American employees feel overwhelmed.

Who wouldn’t want to replace that mentally-numb feeling, a result of “too much going on,” with a more productive mindset?

Paula writes, “Many people say they wish they could be more successful, have more money, be happier, and feel healthier–yet they can’t seem to achieve these things. They blame their bad luck, their busy lives, their limited resources…Being more successful in any area of your life isn’t about wishful thinking. It’s about listful thinking…Once you write down a goal, you instantly become accountable.”

We agree wholeheartedly that the act of writing something down is powerful! In our books, Living Life as a Thank You and The Grateful Life, we advise readers to write down the things that well that day, or to wake up and list a few things they are grateful for. Numerous scientific studies have shown that this activity can transform your health, outlook, and even help you live longer. Thank you Paula, for writing a book that gives sound, solid advice that can help people turn their lives around.

What other books do you find helpful to keep your lives on track?

Nina Lesowitz

Eat, Drink and Be Thankful

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Add subtitle textOur favorite holiday takes place this week in the United States, and we are looking forward to

the festivities with grateful hearts.

     Thanksgiving helps remind us of all the ways in which we are fortunate, and of all that we take for granted. It is a yearly reminder to celebrate the abundance in our lives. However, once you start looking at the world through the lens of gratitude, you’ll see that every day can be an occasion to give thanks. And expressing appreciation can improve your health, your outlook, your relationships, your job performance, and even help you sleep better at night.
     There are numerous ways to bring the “thanks” back to Thanksgiving at your holiday table. Try going around the table and having each person say what they are thankful for. You can start a new tradition by distributing cards and asking guests to write three things they are grateful for. These can be collected and read aloud the following year.
     You can also recite quotes to enhance your Grateful Table. Here are a few we like:
  1. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Epictetus
  2. “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you’, that would suffice.” Eckhart Tolle
  3. “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” Thornton Wilder
  4. “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
  5. “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” Ralph Marston
  6. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy
  7. “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” Frank A. Clark
  8. “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
  9. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
  10. “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” Unknown

Do you have a special Thanksgiving ritual that has become a tradition in your household?

Lessons in Expressing Gratitude for Life’s Little Moments

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cup-of-coffee-236808I was trained by rote to say “thank you,” with any interaction. Maybe it is because I was raised in Catholic schools and feared of the wrath of the nuns if I wasn’t super polite at every moment.

Spontaneous “thank yous” began at an early age with: ‘Thank you Sister Mary-Something for informing the entire class that I am wearing Lafayette blue knee highs instead of the mandated navy blue and calling my parents in for a teacher/parents and child conference to label me as a rebel and discipline risk in 6th grade.

These days, I hear myself saying “thank you” after I’ve held the door open for someone at the grocery store.

“Thank you” is a word that is always on the tip of my tongue, a word that I apparently misuse in often inappropriate and incorrect ways, just because I am trained to say it. And when I do think I am sincerely saying “thank you,” I am not always fully cognizant of and appreciative of why I am saying it and what I am truly grateful for.

Until yesterday in a series of ordinary, turned extraordinary encounters I had during the course of some pretty routine stuff.

First, I was on the call with AT&T’s “Information” trying to hunt down the phone number of someone not Google-able. I finished my query saying ‘thank you” to the operator. She kept me on the phone for another 30 seconds at least thanking me for thanking her and saying that rarely happens. “People usually just slam down the phone,” she told me. “Thank you for saying thank you,” she added.

A little while later, I was headed to a meeting and stopped in at the local Starbucks I frequent. I was running late, and the rush-hour crunch was over. When I was handed my soy latte, the clerk said “Thanks, it is on us.” Why, I wondered, and then she responded: “To thank you because we appreciate how you always tell us thank you.”

Later in the day I came home to find a hand-written thank you note from a friend to thank me for thanking her for sharing her story in our book, The Grateful Life.

These little whispers of “thank you,” startled me. But they also reminded me that even though I sometimes speak the “thank you’ word automatically, it comes back around in ways both small and profound.

In small, seemingly insignificant interactions, my “thank yous” did make an impact. Being grateful, and telling people you are thankful for them, is significant. Do it. Try it. Like me, you may experience the enormous impact it can make in your life.

I know that it is important for me to be appreciative. And now I’m grateful that I was taught at an early age to incorporate “thank you,” into my every interaction, even during times when it seems unnecessary.

Mary Beth Sammons

Meet the Authors

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Please join Nina and Mary Beth at one of these events in the San Francisco Bay Area!

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Alameda
Books Inc., Friday, November 7th, 7pm http://www.booksinc.net/Alameda

Corte Madera
Book Passage, Saturday, November 22, 1pm http://www.bookpassage.com

Oakland

A Great Good Place for Books has been postponed. New date to come

Emeryville
Barnes and Noble, Saturday, December 6, 1pm http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/store/2072

A Serving of Gratitude Can Keep the Doctor Away

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imagesThere are numerous studies taking place right now that are establishing the connection between gratitude and health.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with UC Davis—launched a $5.6 million, three-year project, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. The project is supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation.

Nina  attended the Greater Good Science Center’s Gratitude Summit a few months ago where leading researchers and scientists discussed studies which centered on ways gratitude correlates with biological markers of health. Naomi Eisenberger, director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at UCLA — who is using gene expression and brain-scanning measures to examine some of the biological and neural underpinnings of gratitude — is one of the grant recipients.

Another one is Dr. Jeff Huffman from Harvard Medical School who conducted a study on the impact of gratitude in people who had recently suffered a heart attack. He found that patients who are more grateful healed faster and were less likely to have another heart attack.

Our book includes information that establishes empirically what we have always known intuitively and discovered through our own research – that saying “thank you” is good for your health. What other scientific studies have caught your attention?

5 Ways You Can Cultivate Gratitude at Work

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“People want to be appreciated, not impressed. They want to be regarded as human beings, not as mere sounding boards for other people’s egos. They want to be treated as an end in themselves, not as a means toward the gratification of another’s vanity”. —Sydney J. Harris

Imagine if you woke one morning to a text on your smart phone from your boss thanking you with a big “Wow, that was great” for the work you did the day before?

Unfortunately, people are less likely to express gratitude at work than anyplace else, according to a survey of 2,000 Americans released in 2013 by the John Templeton Foundation.

The good news: times are a changing, and increasingly bosses, co-workers and those on the front lines of corporate America are starting to pay attention to the science that tells us grateful people are typically happier people. Being grateful makes us smile more, and makes us more optimistic and reduces negativity, and those are huge reasons to make gratitude a daily habit at work too.

We applaud an article this week in Entrepreneur.com. It calls on us to try to thank to think about what you’re thankful for at least once a day on the job, and offers five tips for weaving a gratefulness practice into the workplace:

In light of small successes and simple acts of kindness, here are five ways to show gratitude every day:

  1. Write in an abundance journal.Purchase a small notebook and keep it in your briefcase, purse or on your bedside table. Take a few minutes each day to jot down one or two positive experiences, or, alternatively, write what you’re grateful for at the end of each week.
  2. Express your gratitude in person.When a friend, colleague or client goes above and beyond, be sure to state your appreciation. Go to their office or treat them to lunch or a quick cup of coffee.
  3. Show respect for those around you.Treat others with the same level of courtesy you expect to receive: smile, show kindness, exhibit patience and listen.
  4. Don’t complain.When something terrible happens, it’s natural to want to complain about it. You may become impatient with someone in line who takes too long to pay or moan to an employee about a difficult client. You may even complain to yourself when a driver cuts you off in traffic.
  5. Volunteer in your community.There’s a well-known secret among long-time gratitude practitioners that an act of kindness does more good for you than those you’re serving.

Certainly finding ways to honor ourselves and be grateful for those who share our workdays with us can go a long way in helping us feel better, more powerful and have a strong impact on our relationships with others – at work and home too!

What ways have you found to practice gratitude at work? We’d love for you to share.