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What are 5 ways to show gratitude?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Gratitude is one of the most soul-nourishing acts you can do; it can heal your heart, lift your spirit, and raise your joy and well-being levels. While showing appreciation for someone or something else can become a wonderful part of your daily practice of meditation, kindness and connection.

Everyone loves hearing these magic words, ‘Thank you or ‘I really appreciate it’. We all recognize that warm glow of having someone express their thanks to us – whether it’s a loved one, a friend, a colleague or even just a random stranger we’ve held a door open for.

Gratitude, the dictionary tells us, is the quality of being thankful and the action or feeling of showing appreciation for kindness. But why does it matter so much, and what are the best ways to express it?

Research has shown that experiencing gratitude has physical, psychological and social benefits, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences reported in Forbes.1

When we receive thanks, it sparks the production of dopamine and serotonin in our brain. This enhances our mood, helps us manage stress, and alleviates anxiety and negative emotions. The more these positive pathways in our brain are reinforced, the faster our mindset shifts to a happy and optimistic perspective.23

But gratitude doesn’t just affect the receiver – it also has a beneficial impact on the wellbeing of the person doing the thanking. We have a human need to give help as well as accept it, and when we do, we’re viewed as more likeable and more empathetic. This promotes better communication and cooperation – in short, it helps us develop social connections and integrate within a group. These constructive feelings generate enthusiasm and resilience within ourselves that can boost everyone around us. As a result, gratitude has the incredible impact of helping us sustain good relationships, build better communities and make our lives better. 

And the best part? We all have daily opportunities to show gratitude in the workplace, at home, at school and within our community. Whether a family member or just a fellow shopper in the supermarket, affirming and celebrating others creates waves of positive energy. 

We all have different ways of expressing ourselves, so let’s look at 5 ways to show gratitude.

1. Powerful words: there are so many different ways to say “thank you” that can really help get the message across and brighten someone’s day: “I can’t thank you enough”, “I’ll never forget what you did for me”, “you’re a star”. You can do this in person, via a phone call, an email or a handwritten card, or even just with a note stuck on a co-worker’s desk. People love to hear or read that their help mattered, so personalize your message by explaining why it meant so much to you. 

2. With a hug: whether it’s a full-on bear hug or just a light touch on the arm, never underestimate the importance of physical contact. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system to flood you with feel-good endorphins, helps you get a good night’s sleep, and stimulates your immune system. You can also use body language like eye contact, smiling, and laughter, which helps people feel more connected to each other.4

The pandemic has prevented much of the human contact and connections that we so desperately need as humans, so as we emerge, this is a great time to really connect with people you haven’t seen such as relatives and friends and give them a hug or a warm embrace. Express how grateful and thankful you are for having them in your life, and they will sense your deep feelings of gratitude through both words and touch.

In psychology today, they suggest that up to 90% of our communication is non-verbal; our body language, eye contact, and touch are really doing the talking. Therefore, we must show others how we care, connect and appreciate them through touch as well as words.5

3. Give a thoughtful gift: something that tells the other person you’ve really recognized what they did for you, and that you’re still thinking of them even after the favor. You don’t have to spend a lot of money; it could be something as simple as a bar of chocolate, a packet of sunflower seeds, bake a cake or flowers from your garden. 

In fact, home-made gifts are often more thoughtful because you have taken the time and effort to really think about what the person would really like and you’ve put your love into making it. Cakes are great but also think about a homemade card or crafted items.

4. Give your time: Sometimes, your time is the most precious gift you can give. Be present and listen to understand, not just respond. Putting away your phone and patiently opening your ears and heart to someone can be one of the most moving ways of showing gratitude and kindness.

When we make a safe, welcoming space with quality time for someone who has supported us, we show that we value their friendship in giving as well as taking.

The great thing is that gratitude spreads as a result of having a strong network of people around you but also when you create one for someone else. Having a solid support system around us can help us increase our sense of wellbeing and overcome challenges and obstacles in everyday life. It’s also been reported that human connection reduces illness, loneliness, and isolation and can improve our life expectancy.6

5. Acknowledge in public what someone has done for you. Praise can often feel more meaningful when we “overhear” it. You could do this for a friend or local business by using social media to write a gratitude post; a colleague could send an email to their boss or team highlighting their contribution to your project or problem. Businesses really appreciate a testimonial or a review; think about this in terms of friendships too.

How can we show gratitude to ourselves?

Gratitude is not just about what we express to others; it’s also incredibly important to express it privately to ourselves because people who feel grateful are happier and significantly improve wellbeing. A regular gratitude practice can also be easier to navigate through challenging experiences. So, our final suggestion is all about manifesting gratitude as a spiritual practice to guide you through difficult times. 

Practice self-gratitude by making a conscious effort to look for positives every day. You could try writing in a gratitude journal, speaking aloud to yourself in the bathroom mirror before bed, or teaming up with a ‘gratitude buddy’ to share three things every evening that made you feel lucky.

Take a moment to notice the sunshine, hearing your favorite song on the radio, or the good luck of finding a car parking space right where you needed it, and you’ll create a positive feedback loop that helps you appreciate the small joys of life.

How do I start a gratitude journal?

There’s no right or wrong way to start your own journal; it’s really about what works for you. The important thing is that you do it.

  • Find a notebook or journal that you like. It doesn’t have to be fancy but something that you can carry with you if necessary.
  • No-one but you need to see your journal, so neatness, spelling and grammar don’t matter.
  • If you prefer to doodle, draw, or stick things in, go for it! A visual representation of what you’re thankful for often can evoke more emotions and memories than a few words.
  • Try and create a daily practice of writing in your journal every evening or morning – whatever is best for you. Some people find that noting down their thanks at the end of the day helps them offload the business and noise so they sleep better. While others like to wake and give thanks for the day ahead. Remember, whatever works for you.
  • You don’t need to write an essay every day. Three simple words will do it: For example, you could write – family, health, roof. It’s as simple as that but make it meaningful and honest to you.
  • Alternatively, you can make this more of a meditation practice, writing and reflecting on your thoughts. Jot down something that happened that you are thankful for, for example: ‘today I am thankful for my colleague helping me to finish a task at work.’

Then just sit quietly and consider how it made you feel, how much you appreciate their time and consideration, how thankful you are for kindness, compassion and friendship. Just let your mind rest on gratitude for a few moments.

Making your gratitude practice a daily habit will not only improve your own health and wellbeing, but you will naturally be mindful of showing others your gratitude every day. Even the little things count!7 The Dalai Lama said that “the roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness”, and it’s true that consciously practicing gratitude can actually change your perception and experience of life. Gratitude is a two-way gift for both parties, encouraging a healthy mindset and boosting our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

  1. 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round []
  2. How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain []
  3. Giving thanks can make you happier []
  4. Understanding your parasympathetic nervous system for great sleep and less stress []
  5. Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game? []
  6. You know you need human connection. Here’s how to achieve it []
  7. Gratitude Journal []