Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, which makes it especially timely to talk about what “being thankful” really means. It can signify different things to different people, and depending on the context can even mean different things to the same person. But why is it so important? Let’s expand upon the notion of “saying thanks” and really think about what the bigger picture of expressing gratitude is all about.
It’s not hard to understand why the average person has difficulty feeling thankful on a regular basis. In this day and age, it’s easy to take things for granted―the speed with which life and career obligations are moving make it hard to recognize what we have. Slowing down is one of the benefits of a holiday like Thanksgiving. It gives us an opportunity to stop and think. Simply the action of doing so is calming yet invigorating (Source: Huffington Post).
Even prior to the day itself, Thanksgiving conjures feelings of how grateful we are to see family or friends, and take time off from work to appreciate our personal relationships and situations. While some use this “stop and think” moment to personally reflect on their year and what has brought happiness, others observe a tradition of going around the table and sharing what they are thankful for. But what if we brought “thankfulness” to the next level and took it outside the walls of our Thanksgiving celebrations? Now we are talking about something else―the ongoing act of expressing gratitude.
On Thanksgiving we may reflect on our year and think:
“I’m so grateful I had my parents to support me during that difficult time” or
“I’m so lucky to have friends who flew across the country for me” or
“I really appreciated my colleague going above and beyond to help cover me while I was on vacation”
But where do these sentiments go after initially crossing our minds? Are they forgotten or do they stay with us after Thanksgiving? Taking the time to personally show gratitude to the people who have contributed to our success or happiness can help these sentiments take on new life. This is a practice that transcends isolated holidays and fleeting moments of appreciation. Practicing gratitude can be applied to all of our experiences and interactions. But why should we make a concerted effort to make this a part of our everyday lives?
Benefits of Gratitude – For the Giver and Receiver
Aside from the obvious, showing gratitude has many benefits to all involved parties. According to research, it can open doors to more relationships, improve sleeping habits and self-esteem, and help overcome trauma (Source: Forbes). On the receiving end, gratitude can truly take on a ripple effect. According to author and Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, “receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too” (Source: Harvard Gazette). Something as simple as validation can significantly affect people’s views of themselves and how they live their lives. Just like “paying it forward,” the act of giving and receiving gratitude can be very contagious.
Executing The Practice of Gratitude
Showing gratitude can come in many forms. It can be simply acknowledging the contributions of others that have enhanced our lives. We can give thanks in the form of a physical gift―a token of our appreciation. This could mean something small such as a nice hand-written note, or something bigger such as a special item that reflects the recipient’s unique interests. Whether personal or professional, this range of ways to give thanks are all based on the goal of lifting up the person we are grateful for. But the act of giving thanks works both ways. How will the recipient react upon receiving these graces? They will not only feel appreciated, but also feel more inclined to help in the future. They may grow sentiments of loyalty, as the relationship is strengthened. This is an invaluable exchange that will positively impact the relationship in the long term.
This Thanksgiving, take a moment to think about how to take “giving thanks” to the next level. And don’t just stop with your personal relationships. Did you know that on any given day, only 10% of people say “thank you” to their colleagues? (Source: Templeton.org) Try to look at this as an opportunity. More and more we are hearing about the benefits of gratitude. Give it a try. You may be surprised to find how it will enhance your life. Personally, I’m very aware of asking for help on a tight deadline. I always make sure to have a face-to-face conversation where I express sincere gratitude when people have moved around their schedules to accommodate my request. It means a lot to me to have people on my team who will stop what they are doing to be helpful, so I always make sure they know how much I appreciate it!
What about you? What small acts of gratitude can you keep up throughout the year? Add your comments below!
Pssst – we’ve got some pretty great ideas on how to show gratitude! When your post-Thanksgiving food coma settles, give us a call (512-472-9200).