Showing gratitude

Showing gratitude: Why it makes you feel good

When my family first moved to the US in 2004 from the UK, we were excited to have my oldest daughter, Lucy, then four, learn to ski; she was a natural and took to it like a duck to water.  The pressure was on to get her up to the mountain as much as possible, but her sister was a baby, which meant hauling her up there too.

It was stressful, and given my time over again, I would not have set the bar so high. But that’s a topic for another time.

One day though, baby Katie and I arrived at the lodge having dropped Lucy at her lesson and joined the line to get a coffee.

My baby was wailing

Katie was wailing, I was stressed; the day was going so badly. 

Then an angel appeared. 

A stranger touched my arm and said.  “Why don’t you take a seat? I’ll get your drink; what would you like?”

I’m not going to lie; even writing this brings tears to my eyes 18 years later!  Her kindness touched me so deeply.

I often think of this kind woman and wish I could get in touch with her and tell her how much her act meant to me, but of course, I have no idea who she is.

Sharing gratitude fosters positive emotions

With Thanksgiving this week here in the US, many families have a tradition of going around the table and saying aloud what they are thankful for; my kids always panicked at being put on the spot. Within our family though, we regularly and informally share what we appreciate about each other and what we are grateful for.

This fosters positive emotional feelings in both the giver and receiver, essential for both emotional and mental health.

Showing gratitude nurtures your relationships

Showing gratitude for others in this way can deepen all your relationships. In your relationship with your partner or children, it’s very powerful and nurturing to acknowledge those things that you feel grateful for.  It strengthens the bond between you.

It’s worth noting that acknowledging even the small things can have an enormous impact:

“It meant the world to me that you emptied the dishwasher when you knew I was pushed for time today.”

I was so grateful that you took on organizing the night out, it made it so special.”

“Thank you for making such a delicious dinner.”

It’s not comfortable wearing your heart on your sleeve

I know that if you are not used to doing something like this, it can feel awkward at first; showing deep emotions can feel uncomfortable, but it is so worth doing the practice to eventually get comfortable.

There are many ways you can voice your gratitude, if you aren’t comfortable initially face to face, writing a card or a letter or even a text or email works.  Any way that feels comfortable to you and gets the ball rolling on building this skill.

Showing gratitude has long term effects

Over time, when you get more comfortable with the practice, you will start to find that you will begin to look for the positives in any situation rather than the negatives. 

Living with a positive attitude has many benefits:

  • helps you build new relationships or increase satisfaction in current ones
  • enables you to forgive yourself and others
  • Reduces anger and increase empathy and wellbeing
  • helps you sleep better
  • gives you energy and boosts your and others self-esteem
  • enables you to appreciate what you have

Practicing gratitude and showing appreciation in this way directly nourished two of the five building blocks of Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of wellbeing and happiness; Positive Emotions and Positive Relationships.

Will you give it a try?

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