I was planning to write an article on gratitude and the power of thank you for the past couple of weeks. The inspiration came from recognizing the important people in my life that I never rightly said goodbye to, or appreciated for all they had done to make me who I am today.
But writing this piece today feels different. My wife and I are social distancing ourselves from the world for a bit. We aren’t in the at-risk pool, nor have we been exposed (as far as we know). We believe in flattening the curve, and I’m so grateful to the people who are choosing to do the same. We have loved ones with compromised immune systems, we have loved ones who are at the highest risk for Coronavirus.
I’m grateful for the people working in grocery stores right now. I’m sure it’s mad and chaotic, and on some levels, risky, but the work you are doing is more important than ever. I’m grateful that my other job understands the seriousness of the situation and is allowing everyone to work from home. I’m grateful for the governors who are doing the right thing even though it’s hard: shutting down schools, bars, and movie theaters.
The only way through this situation is by working together, social distancing ourselves, and taking the threat of Coronavirus seriously. For more information, please check the CDC Coronavirus Website.
Mom and dad made it a point that I always said thank you. Whether it was to the waiter at our local pizza joint or the gentleman who grabbed our shopping cart in the parking lot, gratitude needed to be expressed. But as I grew into a teenager, and eventually a young adult, I would say the words but not really understand the power of thank you.
Or how gratitude would affect my life a decade later.
A 2003 study confirmed that daily expressions of gratitude lead to healthier well-being, “a prevailing sentiment in both classical and popular writings on happiness is that an effective approach for maximizing one’s contentment is to be consciously grateful for one’s blessings.” Simple acts of kindness can boost self-esteem and develop positive emotions. Like a lot of teenagers, I didn’t understand what being thankful really meant. I said the words but couldn’t comprehend how it affected others.
But now in my 30’s, I can recognize all that I’m grateful for: my wife, my family, my pets, and so many other little things. So I wanted to dig into the research to implement more opportunities for gratitude into daily life and came away truly understanding the power of thank you.
The Research of Thank You
Studies on the relationship between gratitude and well-being show that there is a definite connection between the two. Showing thanks can make you happier, relieve symptoms of stress, and positively affect the relationships around you.
Gratitude benefits relationships
Nobody wants to feel taken for granted. That’s why it is so important to show your partner how much you care about them.
And no, once a year during Valentine’s Day doesn’t count.
But studies show that couples who practice gratitude with each other build more robust, closer relationships. “Moreover, we have provided clean evidence that expressing gratitude can cause increased perception of communal strength.” When one partner expresses to another partner their gratitude, they feel good, which strengthens their relationship and then makes the couple more likely to continue expressing gratitude to each other. A simple thank you also reinforces trust and validation in relationships.
Gratitude is also a predictor for how long relationships will last. Partners who feel appreciated by their lovers tend to enjoy them more as well. Social personality psychologist Amie Gordon conducted numerous studies on thankfulness believes that “one partner’s gratitude can prompt both partners to think and act in ways that convey gratitude to each other and promote commitment to their relationship,” thus creating a healthy relationship cycle.
The power of thank you is that expressions of gratitude are the building blocks to healthy, happy, and long-standing relationships.
Gratitude benefits the workplace
Gratitude might not be the first word that comes to mind when building a company culture, but research tells us that it should be. Stephanie Pollack, the owner of the Culture of Appreciation, believes that gratitude is a game-changer when it comes to a more productive work environment. According to numerous surveys, the number one reason why people quit their job is “because there is a tremendous lack of recognition” at their workplace. Because of this, Pollack’s business model is designed to embrace the power of thank you and develop a company that appreciates its employees. She utilizes three tools: appreciation skill-building, individual diversity characteristics, and organizational culture transformation. Over a few days, Pollack believes her methods can change how businesses operate.
Think about it like this, would you rather work for a company where you’re just another cog in the machine or work for a company that displays empathy and makes you feel valued? Putting it that way makes it a pretty simple decision.
Research says that “gratitude expressions increased both the initiation and maintenance of prosocial behavior, motivating participants to provide help a second time when asked and to persist longer in their current helping activities without being asked.” As a business owner, a genuine expression of thanks leads employees to feel valued and engaged with their work. And the more valued the employee feels the more likely they are to help out others with work-related activities.
Even if you’re not the boss of your own company, there are clear benefits to showing gratitude to your coworkers. You’ll build closer friendships with colleagues and be more invested in the work you do. All it takes is a little gratitude.
Gratitude benefits for your health
Beyond the emotional effects, there are numerous positive physical effects for people who practice gratitude as well.
There are direct correlations between sleep and gratitude. A 2009 study noted that “when falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts, and more likely to think positive thoughts… Equally, it appears that positive pre-sleep cognitions have a positive effect on sleep and that gratitude facilitates these thoughts, leading to superior sleep quality.” Nothing is better than a good nights rest and filling your days expressing gratitude practically guarantees the moment your head hits the pillow, you’re in for a great sleep. And besides feeling more energized, great sleep leads to better memory and cognitive functions.
Gratitude is also proven to be beneficial to people with depression as those struggling with their mental health reported feeling better after consistently writing in their gratitude journal. Dr. Robert A. Emmons has studied gratitude for decades and believes in the power of thank you for aiding in treating mental illness.
3 Ways To Express Gratitude
Successful self-help guru Tony Robbins wakes up every morning with the same routine: a little breathing work, some meditation exercises, and the most crucial step, expressing gratitude. Robbins’ routine asks him to think about three different things he is grateful for, and one of them needs to be something small. Robbins told Business Insider, “The reason I picked gratitude is because when you’re grateful, you can’t be angry. And when you’re grateful, you can’t be fearful.” Robbins believes that by starting your day with expressions of gratitude, you are making the decision to live your life in a beautiful state every single day.
While Robbins has built his expressions of gratitude into a morning routine, you can find other ways to invest in yourself and others by accepting the power of thank you. Here are three easy ways you can express gratitude daily.
Start writing in a gratitude journal
Research in the growing field of gratitude reveals the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. A study of 900 teenagers showed that writing in a journal every day lowers materialistic desires. Other students reported healthier eating patterns after journaling. A simple activity that might take no longer than 10 minutes every morning, gratitude journaling might be one of the keys to a healthier life.
Gratitude journaling is a little different from regular journaling or planning. All you need is a writing utensil, and a notebook or cellphone. That’s it. And at the same time every day, write out everything you are grateful for. Maybe it is a promotion at work, or you achieved a new fitness goal. It doesn’t matter. If you’re thankful for the event happening, you should write it down.
There are specific phone apps available, too, if you want to make your gratitude lists on the go. Keeping a gratitude journal has proven positive effects on mental health, and is one of the best ways to practice the power of thank you.
Take thank you walks in the morning
About a year ago, Rachel and I took a walk with our dog in the park near our home. After a few minutes, Rachel squeezed my hand to stop and pointed towards a tree. Amongst the greenery of the forest lay a deep red leaf, sticking out from all of the rest. For the rest of our adventure, my eyes scanned across every surface to find the colors, to see more beauty in the forest. Blue flowers were growing in the weeds, the way fresh air filled my lungs.
I always took our park for granted, but after that afternoon, I learned to appreciate every step.
Studies show that there is a correlation between walking and improvement for your mental health, and as we talked about earlier, gratitude has similar health benefits. Gratitude walks just put them both together. So the next time you’re outside, bring your gratitude journal with you and jot down some of your thank you’s. And if no one is around, maybe say them out loud as you’re walking. You’ll quickly feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and grateful for the beautiful world around you.
Writing letters to those that you love
So you might have realized that practicing gratitude often involves some writing. Think about the last time you sent a letter. Like a handwritten letter, not an email or text message, but a real handwritten letter. It’s probably been a while.
But since we’re indoors for the foreseeable future, maybe it’s a good time to bust out your nicest Bic pen and paper and get to writing. The Greater Good Science Center offers an easy to pick up tutorial on how to get started writing your own letters.
Of all the steps, one stands out as the most important. “Describe in specific terms what this person did, why you are grateful to this person, and how this person’s behavior affected your life. Try to be as concrete as possible.” One of the inspirations for this entire essay was the thought I had about some friends who helped me out when I was struggling. I don’t speak with them anymore, but I realized how important it was for me to reach out to them to thank them for being a part of my life, and how much that time meant to me. There was an immediate sense of relief, like a lot of past baggage was removed.
Be good to each other.
I originally planned on writing this article before Coronavirus took off, and people started quarantining themselves. But it’s moments in time like this that it is most important to express gratitude towards others. Whether it’s something small like being thankful that your local supermarket had toilet paper, or showing appreciation for your neighbors self-quarantining to avoid getting others sick.
Now is the time to embrace the power of thank you to show the people you love most how much they mean to you. Take some time today or tomorrow, take a gratitude walk or start your gratitude journal.
Sometimes the best self-care requires showing someone else that you care about them too.
If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out some of my other pieces here on Dudefluencer: