Time out for thanks

Erin Huizenga, creative strategist at design firm Faust, hopes to spread happiness
Erin Huizenga, creative strategist at Chicago design firm Faust, hopes to spread happiness with the longest collaborative holiday letter

What are you thankful for?

Chicago-based communications design firm Faust Inc. wants to know.

Faust has launched Appreciate-it.com, an online holiday letter for everyone to contribute their laundry list of thanks. The longer the list, the better: The firm is aiming to make the Guinness Book of World Records with the longest, most sentimentalist holiday letter, which will be published in January.

So many of us get caught up in the activities of our lives and jobs that we forget to take the time to articulate gratitude, Erin Huizenga, creative strategist at Faust, said in a release. We wanted to create a way to keep people thinking about the fleeting moments that bring them happiness.

Not incidentally, Huizenga is also the brainchild behind EPIC, short for Engaging Philanthropy, Inspiring Creatives, a nonprofit that pairs teams of creative professionals with nonprofits that need help.

The Happiness Advantage

It turns out even after the holidays have faded to a dim memory, the act of jotting thoughts of gratitude  might be a healthy business pastime. It’s one of several strategies that Shawn Achor, founder of Good Think Inc., recommends in his new book, “The Happiness Advantage.” In the book, Achor asserts that happiness is a precursor to success, not the result of it.

“Most people think you get through your eight to 14 hours of work and then you can be happy,” Achor said. But research shows people who are happy at work are more productive, and taking time to reflect on one’s blessings can lead to positivity.

While it might be easier to find things to appreciate during a boom time, don’t wait for the economy to improve to take time out for positive reflection. In fact, resist the notion of hunkering down and make an effort to celebrate small successes every day.

Socializing breeds success

“A natural reaction when people are stressed is have their lunches at their desk,” Achor said. But reaching out to others is a better approach because research shows social bonding boosts happiness and leads to success.

Besides jotting personal notes of gratitude, Achor recommends saying something positive to a co-worker, either verbally or by jotting a quick email. “It takes two minutes, but the effects can last six months in increased social support and productivity,” he said.

Other techniques that lead to a more optimistic outlook include exercise, meditation and journaling. “The effort is worth it,” Achor said. “Every single business outcome improves when a business is positive.”

If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, check  out Appreciate-it.com for ideas.