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Reframe That Thought

Posted on October 29, 2015

As the leaves turn beautiful colors here in the Northeast, the obvious next thought that comes to mind is…Christmas! But after you’ve picked all the Kit Kats out of your kids Halloween bag and before Black Friday insanity, there’s a little tradition we Americans like to celebrate called Thanksgiving.

These days, Thanksgiving might be more appropriately renamed the “Four F’s,” as the holiday tradition is centered around food, family, football and a four day weekend. Let’s be honest, there’s just too much going on that weekend to squeeze in the “thanks” part. And the truth is, unless you’re “practicing” gratitude the other 361 days of the year, there’s not a magically moist turkey on the planet that can give you the lasting benefits of a grateful mindset.

Thousands of studies have been done on the impact of gratitude, providing scientific proof that expressing gratitude makes people happier. Some people seem naturally grateful, but fortunately, if you’re not one of the lucky ones, there are plenty of hacks on the road to happiness. A common suggestion in creating the habit of gratitude is to keep a journal of things we are grateful for every day. Another powerful tool in cultivating a grateful mindset is the habit of cognitive reframing.

In the vein of “words matter,” reframing can be as simple as changing a single word to control the meaning. For example, saying “I GET to go to work today” versus “I HAVE to go to work today” transforms it from being an affliction to a gift. We all have a choice in how we filter the data that comes into our life and its impact on our happiness. For example, at Brand Connections, one of the perks we offer employees is a grocery budget for each office. Beyond the typical free coffee, our office refrigerators get stocked weekly with everything from fruit and veggies to English muffins and sandwich fixings. Minutes after the Fresh Direct delivery comes every Monday, our office kitchens are buzzing. An easy thing to be grateful for, right? But two people can see the situation very differently. I’ve heard one person say that the reason we offer free food is so that everybody will keep working and never leave for lunch, while another said that they love not having to leave for lunch so they can keep working and catch an earlier train home. The reality is that there is no “will work for food” sign on the refrigerator. It’s just a perk. One person chooses to see it as a means to better work-life balance, while another thinks it’s a ploy to extract more hours out of them. So I ask you: who do you think is enjoying their tuna sandwich more?

Pre-Thanksgiving pop quiz challenge: What are YOU grateful for? Put a reminder on your calendar for the next four weeks to ask yourself that question every day. If you do this, I can guarantee that by Thanksgiving you will experience real gratitude. It will come from forming the habit of reframing the gifts that present themselves to you daily, or you will be grateful that that this little gratitude experiment has ended. Then you can go back to being annoyed that the barista at Starbucks ALWAYS spells your name wrong on your latte that, incidentally, costs three times more than what over a billion people live off of each day. Enjoy your coffee and thank YOU for reading my blog!

Sherry Orel

Sherry Orel is the CEO of Brand Connections, an independent global media and marketing company that specializes in Making Marketing Easier for Marketers™, providing tailored solutions that link critical marketing disciplines to help marketers connect the dots to deliver a better business outcome. She has 25 years experience in working with Fortune 500 brands to develop strategic, multi-channel solutions, integrating disciplines from out-of-home, digital, mobile, social, promotion, sponsorship, experiential, CRM and retail activation.

Posted in advice