12/01/2011 02:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 31, 2012

Business Headlines May Be Gloomy, But There Are Bright Spots

I renewed my driver's license last year and was asked if I wanted a new photo. Saying yes was a mistake. Ten years of aging and a bad hair day made me want to turn back the clock. I feel the same way when I check out the morning headlines. I have a yearning for the problems of yore. I want to go back to 2002 and worry about Enron, rather than a global meltdown.

Luckily, just in time for the holidays, a new study emerged about the power of gratitude. People who are thankful sleep better and are less likely to get depressed over the morning news. And if you are not the naturally-grateful type, you are advised to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude." This seems like something to work on. I could use a good night's sleep.

Robert A. Emmons, of the University of California, Davis and his research partner, Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, suggest a regular habit of listing five things for which you are grateful. If you do it every day, amazing things happen.

So here's my list, culled from the work of the Aspen Institute's First Mover Fellows -- innovators driving change within business with catalytic, long-term benefits to society.

  1. I'm grateful that John Thompson at Advent Financial Services is pursuing a business model to help low income, working taxpayers receive their tax refunds efficiently, while in the process connecting them with the mainstream banking system for year round use.

  • I'm grateful that is encouraging Rahul Raj in his efforts to develop a way for customers to monetize the recycling of electronics, to encourage larger scale and wiser use and reuse of materials that otherwise go to the land fill.
  • I'm grateful that James Inglesby at Unilever is piloting an affordable, self-contained toilet as a clean, environmentally sound alternative to more costly public pay toilets in extremely poor neighborhoods in Ghana.
  • Gema Sacristán is using her base at the Inter-American Development Bank to work with financial intermediaries in Latin America and the Caribbean to create the Bank of the Future, one that will combine financial profitability with social and environmental returns. I'm grateful for that.
  • Finally, I'm grateful that Keshav Sondhi at FedEx Express is achieving much greater fuel efficiency for their extensive fleet of trucks through smart use of data and technology.
  • There are more examples where these came from -- and nominations for the next class of Fellows are now open. I'm grateful that a program like this exists that allows conscientious people working in business around the globe to use their hearts as well as their minds.