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Nov 15, 201809:06 AM Live Well, Work Well

with Debra Lafler

The power of expressing gratitude at work

(page 1 of 2)

Gratitude, it’s everywhere lately! At home, at work, at the store, on the media. What’s up? Why is it so important?

Gratitude improves emotional well-being, physical health, and relationships. Don’t believe me? Do a few things to test it for yourself right now, and then we’ll talk about how to do this at work with your colleagues.

To begin, take out a piece of paper and rank your state of emotional well-being (how do you feel right now?) between 1 and 10; then place it aside.

The gratitude letter exercise

Take out a new piece of paper and write a letter of gratitude to someone in your life — they can be alive or deceased; someone from your present or your past; and you can be in relationship and communicating with them, or not. This can be written on a computer or tablet, but it’s best written by hand on paper. In the letter, write what you are grateful for about this person, such as how they have changed your life for the better, and what they taught you, showed you, gave you, helped you with, or directed you toward. Did they care for you, believe in you, teach you, guide you, provide for you, or give you something that changed your life for the better? Tell what you appreciate about him or her, their personal qualities, traits, strengths, or skills. These can be tangible or intangible things. Tell them what you never told them before, or in ways you have never told them before. Write as if this were your only moment to tell them how much they have meant to you, and how much you appreciate them. Fold the letter up and put it in an envelope and write their name on the front of the envelope. You can decide if you want to send it or not, or read it to them or not. Either way, how do you feel right now? Between 1 and 10, has your emotional well-being improved from when you started? Yes? Then, you have experienced what experiments have shown. And, if you do decide to send or read the letter to the individual, their emotional well-being will raise, as well.

The 3 or more grateful things exercise

Another practice that is similar is simply writing down what you are grateful for every day. You write at least three things per day and make it a ritual by choosing a time of day that you do this, like as soon as you sit down to your desk at work, or just before bed every night. It’s best if you can do it every day for 30 days. After 30 days, see how you feel. The research on this has shown that well-being improves, but it’s also true in the moment. Anytime you focus on what you are grateful for, your emotional well-being improves. You cannot be grateful and stressed out at the same time. You also cannot be grateful and anxious or depressed at the same time. Try it. Right now, write down three things that you are grateful for today. This is the first day of your 30-day challenge.

The grateful email or text

One more exercise to test this for yourself — right now, take out your phone and email, message, or text someone who you care about just to say thank you. This can be a thank you for doing something or just being who they are. Make this fun and add an image or smiley face if you want. Press send. How do you feel? Is it better than when you started these three exercises?


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About This Blog

Debra Lafler is a Madison-based wellness consultant, coach, and speaker with over 20 years of experience in the field. She currently works as the employee wellness and employee assistance program manager for the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services, and as an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin’s Health and Wellness Management program. She also is available privately to hire as a business consultant, personal coach, or motivational speaker. Debra has a doctorate degree in Divinity & Spiritual Studies from Emerson Theological Institute; a master’s degree in Health & Behavior Studies specializing in Health Education from Columbia University; a bachelor’s degree in Communication, with certificates in Wellness and Coaching from The University of Wisconsin—Parkside; and certificates in Worksite Wellness, Holistic Stress Management, Grief Support, and Yoga. She can be reached at or



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