This month, millions of Americans will share a meal with family and friends and reflect on what they're grateful for. Whether they're expressing gratitude for a big promotion or a small weight loss, each and every person leaves the table feeling content and full of warmth (not to mention pie).

Meals are a great way to practice empathy and gratitude, but they're not the only way. And friends and family aren't the only people we can share our gratitude with -- our teammates should be on that list, too. After all, the average American spends a third of her life at work, according to research from RAND Corp.'s Andrew Naber. 

Not cultivating an attitude of gratitude at work can be dire. In 2018, Great Places to Work research found that only 49 percent of people give their workplaces high marks -- and nearly 120,000 people die each year from the health conditions that stem from negative work experiences, like hypertension and depression.

To increase positive emotions that fuel productivity and growth, launch a gratitude practice. A year-round version of Thanksgiving can resolve -- or preempt -- a lot of hard feelings.

Make gratitude visible.

What we openly celebrate is what our employees focus on. Whether it's your mission statement, a sales leaderboard or a funny cat poster, what's on your walls gets more subconscious attention than you or your teammates realize. It also signals to clients and partners what's really valued by your team.

Designate a wall or dry-erase board as your shout-out corner. This is where people should express gratitude for teammates' efforts, publicly recognize big wins and even show appreciation for little things, like new coffee. This only works, however, if everyone takes part, even executives. Make sure your leaders stop to read the board and add to it. This doesn't have to feel like favoritism -- recognizing a whole department for its hard work on a campaign is valuable.

Highlight gratitude's importance at meetings.

Many teams open meetings with check-ins. Switch to a gratitude practice instead. Asking each person to share one thing she's grateful for starts meetings off on the right foot and shifts people into a positive mindset before solving problems.

Some teams may benefit from a general "What are you grateful for this week?" A company I coached asked different questions during its bimonthly meetings. During the first few months, they asked questions like "Which customer are you most grateful for right now?" and "Which win most tickled you?" From there, employees took things into their own hands, writing thank-you notes to their most valued clients. You'd better believe that retention -- both client and employee -- went up after that.

Take it personally.

A lot of people struggle to feel grateful for common aspects of their lives, whether it's sunshine or software. It feels like a given, even if it's the thing that makes their world go 'round. It's up to you as the leader to make gratitude a personal practice. 

Send an email when an employee really added value to the company -- heck, give him a day off. When a teammate tells you how helpful another person was, record it for her annual review. Tell your teammate to make sure to share his gratitude with her; it means more coming from the horse's mouth. Order a catered lunch from your accounting department's favorite deli and deliver it personally. Make it clear that you care about these people and how they feel about their work. 

Create events centered on gratitude.

Volunteering is a great way to inspire gratitude. Whether people leave feeling grateful for their own circumstances or glowing from helping others, they see their impact firsthand. To extend the gratitude, select an organization that fits your team -- if you run an advertising agency, you might support a literacy group. Another way to foster more gratitude is to choose an organization that directly affects your team, such as a local elementary school or the Humane Society where most of your colleagues got their pets.

Also, switch things up at your annual holiday party. If you don't have an Employee Appreciation Day, add it here. Honor the people who've served your company and customers for five years. Share some of the positive feedback you've received throughout the year from employees and clients. Present an award to an MVP or high-performing team. Getting pats on the back motivates people to keep up the hard work -- and think fondly of the people they're sharing that work with.

It's easy to take things for granted. Don't let November be the only month when you and your teammates appreciate what you have. Adopt a few practices to make gratitude a regular thing. You'll be surprised at how much growth a few thoughtful acts can fuel -- in both your company and your employees.

Published on: Nov 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.