We’ve probably all heard it- expressing gratitude for the things we have is one of the best ways we can increase our happiness. This can take on a form of a daily journal, gratitude lists, or even simply thanking people for the things they do for you. I was on board with all of these, except for the thank you’s. I seriously questioned: does that matter at all? Or is it just an empty gesture?
It all changed for me when recently I was on the receiving end of the “thank you” exchange. Below are three examples of how awesome a “thank you” feels.
An organization I’m a part of, like every other organization, had to cancel their spring conference. They transitioned a good bit of their programming online. This included the portfolio review sessions, for which I served as a volunteer reviewer. While there were originally supposed to be two reviews, nobody signed up for the second slot, so me and the second reviewer were able to spend a full hour with a young woman’s portfolio, and give her a lot of feedback regarding both her body of work and her career. As the session came to a close, she took a deep breath and said: “Thank you so much for taking the time to do this for me. With everything going on, you must be incredibly busy, so I want to let you know that I got a lot of this and I really appreciate your time.” This was a polite thank you, but it meant so much to me. This is a hectic time for all, and this experience felt uniting and meaningful.
Recently I also received another simple form of gratitude- a thank you card. I donate money fairly regularly to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. Again, like everything else they had to close for visitors right now, so they are struggling financially. After a few donations, I received a lovely, handwritten note, featuring a photo of one of their residents. Now, I know I give them money, so while this might sound presumptuous: I deserve a thank you. However, it still felt incredibly nice to receive something that clearly took thought and effort.
One more example sticks out in my mind. A few years back I made a resolution that I will not walk by a crying person idly, but rather inquire if there’s anything I can do for them (since then I’ve realized that college students cry a lot, but that’s beside the point). My office is located right inside the main entrance to the performing arts building on campus. There was an event happening there that night. As I was leaving my office, I saw one of my students pacing right outside my door, on the phone, clearly upset and crying. I shepherded her further down the hall, asked her if she wanted me to let her into the design studio for some privacy, or if there was anything else I could do for her. She rejected any help and continued her conversation. A few days passed until we had class again, and I completely forgot about the interaction. After class, she asked me if she could talk to me for a second. She filled me in on what was happening that day, and told me how much it meant to her that I cared enough to check on her.
So there you have it: 3 pieces of anecdotal evidence of how good it feels to be on the receiving end of gratitude. Realizing this sold me on the idea of the power of gratitude, and as a result, I try to make sure that I express it more. While creating gratitude lists is nice, it removes the knowledge of the act from the receiver. I’ve been trying to amp up my thank you’s.
Right now, this has taken on the format of lots of thank you emails and text messages. I can’t wait to thank certain people in person! I also bestow a lot of my gratitude on my husband, but I don’t think he’s sick of it yet. Things are hard right now, so I want to make sure the people in my life feel especially appreciated.
However, gratitude lists are a powerful thing in this equation. In addition to all the people I’m grateful for, these create a great space to focus on the non-people things. Some that have made my list in the past weeks:
- How soft my cat is.
- I live by the water.
- It was a pleasant, sunny day.
- My new hobby of wood burning is really fun.
- Got to do yoga and take a bike ride.
There are plenty of others as well.
This attitude is helping me a lot at the present moment, with all this uncertainty going on. In fact, looking over my lists has been a lot of fun, and made me realize, anew, how awesome the things and people in my life are. I hope they know that. Best thoughts and wishes to all of them, and best thoughts and wishes to you. Thank you for reading. I really appreciate it.