What Is World Gratitude Day?

August 28, 2020 Aaron Kinne

6-minute read

thank you

World Gratitude Day is coming soon, and if ever the world needed the restorative power of gratitude, that time is now. Gratitude lifts us up, rejuvenates our spirit, and gives us a renewed resolve to meet the unprecedented challenges we’re facing today. 

As Workhuman® CEO Eric Mosley observed in his Workhuman® Live keynote address, gratitude “binds people together and creates a symbiotic relationship. There are lessons for leadership that a little piece of positive reinforcement can change a life. … The gratitude movement is taking over.”

What is World Gratitude Day?

It was in 1965, at a Thanksgiving Day dinner in the meditation room of the United Nations building, that the idea of World Gratitude Day first came into being. Spiritual and meditation leader Sri Chinmoy suggested there be a day of thanks the whole world could celebrate together. Those present at the meeting pledged that each year on Sept. 21 they would hold a celebration of gratitude in their country.

In 1977, during a special ceremony that honored Sri, a resolution passed that would officially recognize World Gratitude Day. Since then, this annual observance has grown to become a dynamic, worldwide movement.

How do we celebrate World Gratitude Day?

How you celebrate the day is limited only by your imagination. Some people write thank you notes to those they appreciate. Some make a point of having “gratitude dinners” with family members. And others start a gratitude journal in which they record what they’re grateful for. One innovative parent even came up with the Alphabet Gratitude Game. 

For many, the day is a moment to reflect on the blessings that make them grateful. Last year my Workhuman colleague, Roshni Patel, marked World Gratitude Day by celebrating her parents. In her moving post, she shared the story of her parents’ journey from the undeveloped state of Gujarat in India to the United States, where she and her sisters grew up with privileges, opportunities, and a developed infrastructure. “I’m grateful for my parents because every accomplishment, every triumph, and every success I achieve I owe to them,” she wrote. “My parents risked it all, just so we could have it all.”

In the same spirit, being grateful for all you have is a particularly meaningful time to help those in need. Some people mark World Gratitude Day with volunteer efforts. Others make a donation to a worthy cause.

Of course, World Gratitude Day is also a wonderful time to show gratitude to your colleagues and the people you work with through Social Recognition®. After all, the more gratitude in a company, the better it performs. The data proves it, over and over again. Gratitude makes people feel acknowledged for who they are and what they do, motivating and empowering them to do the best work of their lives. 

Who or what are you grateful for? World Gratitude Day is your opportunity to join the global community and participate in the positive energy we so desperately need in these times.

What is the meaning of World Gratitude Day?

Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, has called gratitude “the ultimate performance-enhancing substance.” In his Workhuman Live presentation, he noted: “When it comes to gratitude, you literally cannot overplay its hand.” 

It’s this same meaning that drives the mission of World Gratitude Day – a day to celebrate the good that is gratitude. It recognizes the transformative power gratitude has to heal, energize, change lives, and drive cultural change in the workplace. 

As noted above, the true meaning of World Gratitude Day is about giving as well as receiving. That’s not surprising, since research has shown giving gratitude engenders positive feelings in the giver as well as the receiver. To quote Workhuman co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley: “Giving recognition is a moment of gratitude – it affects how we think for the rest of that day. Gratitude changes the giver and has a more profound impact.”

Perhaps Dr. Emmons best summed up the meaning of World Gratitude Day when he said that gratitude is “a celebration of the good – and a recognition that this good is sourced outside the self. It’s the greatest of virtues.”

Why is gratitude so powerful?

We can research it. We can analyze its impact. But when it comes to understanding why gratitude is so powerful, it starts with the heart. 

In her “Gratitude for Beginners” post, Workhuman evangelist Lynne Levy echoed this sentiment when she wrote, “Gratitude is a heart-centered emotion. You need to pause and feel it. You need to think of the person, their actions, how they made you feel, and how you valued those actions. Gratitude requires that we each recognize our dependence on others. Gratitude requires humility and vulnerability.” 

From a business perspective, gratitude has likewise been shown to be a powerful force in difficult times. “What companies need are always-on strategies with demonstrable ROI that support the culture, the business, and the employees who continue to outperform in their roles, despite the uncertainty,” observed Eileen Nolan, vice president of strategic accounts at Workhuman in a blog she wrote last year. “Gratitude is that strategy.”

Lynne also cited the many proven benefits of gratitude, including building connections at work, cultivating teamwork, reducing stress, and boosting employee retention.

Findings from “The Future of Work is Human,” based on a survey of more than 3,500 full-time workers in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, revealed the power of gratitude – fostered by recognition – to overcome stress. It cites studies supporting the notion that “gratitude can be a key to building resilience and buffering against stress.” 

“I’ve seen firsthand how our customers have thrived as a result of doubling down on gratitude,” noted Eileen.

How do you express gratitude?

Gratitude manifests itself in a number of ways. As noted above, it can be expressed through a gift, a note, a visit, a kind word, or an act of charity. Or even a child’s game. What each expression has in common is that it comes from a place of sincerity, compassion, and caring.

It isn’t just about how you express gratitude, but why. In his Workhuman Live presentation, Dr. Emmons shared the results of a May 2018 survey conducted by the National Research Corporation/NRC Health in collaboration with Accordant Philanthropy. Drawing on data from 18,413 respondents, the survey asked patients their reasons for expressing gratitude to caregivers. Most (29%) responded “It makes me feel good to say thanks.” This was followed at 26% by “It makes other people feel good.”

World Gratitude Day in a pandemic

Our current challenges bring a powerful poignancy to this year’s observation of World Gratitude Day. On days when the weight of it all gets me down, I think of how much I have to be grateful for. I have my health. I’m with my spouse. And I am fortunate to not only have work, but to work for a company that celebrates gratitude as a core tenet. 

I hope you will take this year’s World Gratitude Day to be grateful for your own blessings and express gratitude to those around you.

RELATED POSTS

Gratitude: The Ultimate Change Agent

The Importance of Gratitude in Creating Human Workplaces

Gratitude for Beginners

About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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