It’s strange, isn’t it, that we’re so careful about remembering to thank people for our change in the supermarket or for complimenting our work - but when it comes to the bigger things, like supporting us through a hard time or just being there for us, how often do we really thank those around us?
Expressing gratitude can be incredibly beneficial for both parties. Here are some reasons to start saying thank you more often:
It’ll make you happier
There’s a reason gratitude journals have become so popular of late. Studies have shown that if you take the time to write down three things you’re grateful for each day, then within a matter of weeks you will train your brain to seek out the positive in situations rather than the negative. Check out this brilliant TED talk from Shawn Achor where he explains this and other ways to improve your happiness:
Expressing gratitude can help to make us nicer, more trusting and sociable, and more appreciative of others - all of which serves to make us more likeable to those around us. Who doesn’t want to be more liked by their friends, family and coworkers?
It can make you more healthy
Yes, really! Numerous studies have linked a regular gratitude practice with such benefits as fewer physical symptoms, less physical pain, more sleep of better quality, and even lower blood pressure. The emotions of appreciation and gratitude have been shown to induce a relaxation response, and even to reduce symptoms of depression. It seems ridiculous to think you can gain all of this just by expressing gratitude, but it’s true!
Thanking someone makes you both feel good
To a certain extent, we all expect gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, but a surprise gift “just to say thank you” can really brighten someone’s day - and seeing the effect your gift has on a friend can make you feel really good too. You don’t need to spend a fortune on this; the personal touch will really show your friend that you care. A handwritten note with one of our Escape balms or candles would be the perfect way to thank a friend for being there, and perhaps bring back memories of a happy holiday. Never underestimate the power of a heart-felt thank you.
It can make you more resilient
Expressing gratitude can reduce our feelings of envy, as we feel more thankful for what we already have. It can even improve our memories, allowing us to look back on the past with a rosy tint. Over time we become more optimistic, less materialistic and less self-centred which helps to bolster our self-esteem. When we feel grateful we feel more positive emotions and all of this allows us to be more resilient against stress. Lower stress levels and a better response to stressful situations are both things we all want in the modern age.
Hopefully we’ve convinced you of just how beneficial expressing gratitude can be, but how does one go about “expressing gratitude?” Here are some ideas to get you started:
Keep a gratitude journal
These days there are lots of different gratitude journals on the market, but you don’t need an expensive book; you can use a normal diary or notebook or even add a daily gratitude section to your bullet journal. Make it a part of your evening routine to sit down and list three things about your day for which you are grateful. Try to make it three different things each day; don’t just say “I’m grateful to have my health” each day, instead make an effort to think of things that have gone well that day. They don’t need to be massive things; you could be thankful for your train being on time, or that you got out of work on time today.
Use an app
There are lots of gratitude apps available these days. These range from simple journal-style apps that remind you to record something we’re thankful for each day, to apps that store our happy photos or recordings as well. An app is a great idea because most of us keep our mobile with us all the time. Many apps will use push notifications to remind us to record our gratitude too so this is great for those of us who struggle to remember to write in a physical journal every day.
Express your gratitude in person
We mentioned above how good it makes both of you feel when you give a friend a surprise gift. Expressing gratitude to a friend in person can work wonders for both of your moods. Our time is important to us, and when you give up your time to visit with a friend it can mean a great deal to them. Take a friend out for lunch and tell them how much you appreciate them. Rather than saying “I’m buying you lunch to say thank you” make a point of sitting down with them over lunch and saying “I really appreciate your help and support.” List specific things they have said or done that you are thankful for and be sure to actually say the words, “thank you.”
Express gratitude instead of complaining
Sometimes, bad or inconvenient things happen and most of us are conditioned by years of habit to grumble and complain. From late trains to major life upheavals, our set response is usually to complain about it. That’s perfectly reasonable, but if you re-watch the TED talk by Shawn Achor we linked to above, you’ll see that positive psychology encourages us to focus on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. When we complain about our late train it might feel justified, and it builds camaraderie among other late commuters - but it reinforces a negative outlook that spreads into the rest of our lives. Try to catch yourself before complaining, and instead try to think of something to be grateful for instead - for example, your train might be late, but you get a little extra time to read your book.
Set yourself a challenge on social media
By publicly saying on social media that you’re going to post your gratitude daily, you make yourself accountable. Your friends will read your updates and may even join in with the challenge yourself. Posting your gratitude on social media is a great way of spreading the good feeling, and of publicly thanking individual people. Again, you don’t need to always give thanks for the big things; by posting a couple of things each day you would soon run out of big things to say thank you for any way! Instead, focus on what has happened that day: a good night’s sleep; a good chat with your partner; getting a seat on the train home.