The year 2020 was a bit of a mess. And 2021 was only slightly better. It’s exhausting thinking about what 2022 holds, right? I am choosing to be optimistic about the future. That’s the keyword: Choosing. There’s a lot of different emotions swirling around as we wrap up two very tumultuous years! For me, I know gratitude and kindness go a lot further than just about any other emotion I know. And choosing to be grateful and kind helps me personally and professionally.

You never know what is going on in someone else’s world and kindness is free. I’m grateful for those who show up in life because life is hard.

It’s not just me, though. There’s science behind kindness and gratitude.

In 2012, researchers in gratitude therapy published an article about a study where people were assigned, at random, one of six therapeutic interventions to improve their quality of life. The biggest short-term effects came from a ‘gratitude visit’ where participants wrote a thank you to someone. The positive effect lasted up to one month.

This study went on to find a “kindness intervention” that resulted in even stronger lasting happiness than the gratitude data. Imagine if we combined the two!

Mindset: Acting with genuine kindness and gratitude helps us to slow down and notice those around us. It’s easy to fall into the rut of grabbing your coffee and mumbling “thanks” while you dig in your bag to grab your cell phone while never making eye contact.

Challenge: Slow down, look the barista in the eye, smile and say, “Thank you; I hope you have a great day,” before they have a chance to say it first.

Mindset: Expressing gratitude allows your heart to open and recognize the good people, times and moments in your day. It helps you focus on abundance.

Challenge: Just like the research subjects did, do your own version of a gratitude visit. Don’t just wait for thanksgiving day to play round-robin around the table of things you’re grateful for. Be intentional. Stop someone in the breakroom or the parking garage, your neighborhood or your kids’ school. Don’t just say thanks. Back it up with an example of how that person impacts your life in a positive way. Extra credit: Thank a stranger like the UPS delivery person or the TSA person at the airport.

Mindset: It’s difficult to be angry or fearful when you’re practicing kindness and gratitude. A frequent counseling practice is to advise couples to hold hands and look at each other while arguing. It’s harder to spew hate and anger when you’re connected.

Challenge: Find a situation that would normally frustrate you and list three things that make you grateful in the situation.

As I sit and reflect on this year, I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for the people I’ve met this year – even remotely! I’m thankful I’ve started to travel again. I’m thankful for my health, friends and family. I am thankful for the random acts of kindness that have been shown to me. My hope for you in 2022 is that we can all practice a little more kindness and be a little more grateful. There is so very much to appreciate around us if we just pause and take it all in.