Say Thank You! |

6 min read
ricochet64 / Istock

Source: ricochet64 / Istock

The state of being thankful and appreciative is the foundation of the concept of gratitude. It is an emotion as well as a cognitive process. Gratitude involves recognizing and acknowledging the positive qualities in ourselves, recognizing the good in others, and appreciating the world around us.

There are numerous psychological and physical health benefits to expressing gratitude, in addition to the interpersonal and social benefits.

Clinical Benefits of Gratitude

Improves mental health:

  • Enhances well-being
  • Improves mood
  • Decreases symptoms of anxiety
  • Decreases symptoms of depression
  • Helps us cope with trauma and find meaning

Improves emotional resilience:

Improves physical health:

  • Increases level of physical activity
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves dietary choices and habits
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Improves the immune system
  • Increases adherence to prescribed medication regimen
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Decreases HbA1c, associated with blood sugar levels and diabetes
  • Assists in treatment of substance use disorders

Improves self-esteem:

  • Decreases negative thinking
  • Helps us recognize our own strengths and positive qualities
  • Improves self-worth

Improves quality of life and satisfaction:

  • Improves insight
  • Helps us appreciate what we have
  • Fosters focus on the positive in the present and on plans going forward
  • Buffers against burnout
  • Models and attracts more gratitude

Reduces materialism:

  • Improves ability to rethink priorities
  • Shifts focus from possessions to experiences and connections
  • Improves productivity

Improves prosocial behaviors:

  • Improves conflict-resolution skills
  • Improves creativity
  • Fosters a sense of connection and reciprocity
  • Increases acts of kindness and generosity
  • Increases sharing with others

Improves relationships:

  • Increases patience
  • Strengthens social bonds
  • Increases humility
  • Increases empathy

Expressing Gratitude

Several examples of how to express gratitude and make it a habit to recognize and appreciate things you may have overlooked in the past are included below.

1. Saying “thank you!”

It’s easy, costs nothing, demonstrates you appreciate the other person, increases connection, and reinforces positive behaviors. Genuine appreciation is always the best. People can tell the difference between a sincere thank you and one that is forced. The more you practice saying “thank you,” or writing it in an email or text, the more it will become a habit.

2. Self-appreciation

Think about your own strengths, attributes, and qualities you appreciate. You can make a list, or simply acknowledge them during your day-to-day experiences. Some people are better at this than others as they may have had caregivers who helped them identify their attributes.

There are so many things to be grateful for, such as your physical and mental health, the people in your life, your ability to care for yourself, and reading self-help books to improve yourself. As you are able to appreciate your own achievements and personal growth, think of how you can celebrate yourself. While this may seem silly, it actually will improve gratitude for yourself and positively impact your self-worth.

3. Appreciating others

If someone has supported you or helped you, recognize it and express your gratitude. Even if they didn’t do something specific, their mere presence may be supportive or inspiring. In addition to saying “thank you,” consider telling them why and how you are grateful for them.

We often think of people we love, but rarely tell them how grateful we are to have them in our lives. This is your opportunity to change that and create a new habit of reaching out and telling your loved ones that you appreciate them.

Gratitude Essential Reads

4. Appreciating moments

“Stop and smell the roses” is a phrase people don’t say as much anymore. Embedded in the mindfulness aspect of this saying, as well as the dictate to being present, is the encouragement for the capacity to appreciate the moment.

Whether we are grateful for the sun’s warmth or the engaging book we’re reading in the comfort of our bed, there are numerous opportunities to cherish every day.

Gratitude Exercises

1. Create a gratitude tree.

A gratitude tree can be an artistic expression of the things you are grateful for. This can be done using various materials or mediums such as drawing, collage, mosaic, or computer graphics. You can have different trees about different aspects of your life and keep growing them as the things you appreciate in your life increase.

2. Do volunteer work.

Giving back to our community and those who are less fortunate increases our sense of fulfillment and our sense of appreciation for the resources and support we have in our own life. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, your community place of worship, or your local library or join a nonprofit/charity group.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

Keeping a gratitude journal can be a calming experience and encourage positivity. Writing down the highlights of your life, new experiences, small wins, and moments of connection can feel grounding and healing.

4. Write letters of gratitude.

Taking the time to express your gratitude will be invaluable to the person and, additionally, will positively impact your own altruistic motivations.

There are many people we don’t even personally know or who are no longer alive who may have had great impacts on our lives. Consider writing a letter to a thought leader, an author who inspires you, or your ancestors.

5. Practice mindful meditation or yoga.

Mindful meditation and yoga are practices that increase awareness and encourage a calm mindset and staying in the present moment. There are many apps and online communities that can provide guidance in this journey.

6. Read inspiring memoirs.

Reading stories of people who have gone through adversity can be motivating, humbling, and inspiring.

7. Create a gratitude altar.

Consider creating a little altar with objects that represent things that bring peace to you. These could be photos of loved ones, seashells from a vacation, a trophy won at a competition, or anything that reminds you of your achievements, your positive qualities, good times, or your loved ones.

Thinking of happy memories will trigger a good mood. A gratitude altar can be elaborate with multiple sentimental objects, or it can be as simple as a photo on a fridge or a note on a mirror.

8. Create a gratitude jar.

Write things you are grateful for and collect them in a container or jar. At times when you need motivation or inspiration, you can pull out these little notes to remind yourself of the things you are grateful for.

9. Show gratitude through artistic expression.

Using arts and crafts to express gratitude through tangible ways can be a healing experience.


Source: Eric1513/Istock

No matter how you decide to incorporate gratitude practices in your life, you will experience the benefits in your overall mental and physical health. Being in a state of gratitude is incompatible with being simultaneously in a state of despair. When we practice gratitude in a structured way, it gives us the experience of being in an appreciative state, and the more we do it, the more automatic it becomes. Since gratitude practices include positivity and kindness, they will also improve your social relationships.

Introducing a new way of relating to the world may take time and feel frustrating at times, but even the smallest change will set the foundation for it to become more automatic. It is important to be compassionate and allow yourself to experiment with different gratitude practices to see which ones work best for you.

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