Every act of appreciation is a seed planted, which blooms into something beautiful, something more to appreciate. Asking how to express gratitude is kin to wondering how we can make our lives more beautiful.
“Learning the art of expressing gratitude will force you to focus on the positive.” – Jim Rohn
It’s not the thing that creates gratitude, but the energy inside of you that generates gratitude. The energetic quality of genuine gratefulness is that of expansion, elevation, and deepening, all rolled into one. Expressing gratitude brings us deeper into the core essence of life, expands the mind, and allows us to transcend the boundaries of the body, so that we may touch someone’s heart with our own.
Gratitude isn’t merely an emotion expressed and discussed in depth, but a prescribed path to sustained happiness and a gateway to the true riches of life.
There are lots of benefits that a gratitude practice offers, and all are worthy of our optimism. Yet, our excitement about reaping the benefits of giving thanks will be met with the reality: gratitude is a practice, a lifelong commitment that requires us to show up every single day.
To generate the energy of gratitude on a daily basis, we can write in a gratitude journal, deploy it consciously in our relationships, trigger ourselves with mantras and other mental reminders, writer gratitude letters or emails, start a gratitude jar… and the list goes on. Not only are there several ways to express appreciation, there are certain ways in which we can amplify the impact of our appreciation.
In other words, how can we make our thanks count? How can we give gratitude a voice?
Based on some science and experience, here are a few thoughts on how to express gratitude so that it becomes a natural part of life and not a chore–something that retains our daily optimism.
How to Express Gratitude and Make It Count
Be one with your message.
“Here’s the gift of gratitude: In order to feel it, your ego has to take a backseat. What shows up in its place is greater compassion and understanding. Instead of being frustrated, you choose appreciation.” – Oprah Winfrey
If you’re going to understand the power of gratitude at all, you have to really get involved with the emotional element of it.
When we’re not sincere about any message we’re conveying–when we’re not fully immersed in what we’re expressing–the message is lost on others, and on us. We simply can’t fake energy.
To express gratitude and make it count, give your message your full attention and intention.
When you think about the people, places, events, and things in your life that you’re genuinely grateful for, really feel the gratitude in your body. When you write thank-you notes, put your heart into each word. Before you tell someone why you’re thankful for what they’ve done and for who they are, let love flow through you. Get into an emotional state of abundance. See with your heart, not just your eyes.
When you are present in the feeling of gratitude, you’ll know it: you feel more open, more generous, more connected, more understanding, more aware and alive.
Having that emotional, compassionate lens really enhances the experience of expressing and receiving appreciation. It’s something that we can miss out on, for instance, when we teach children to say the words, “Thank you,” without focusing on the inherent emotional exchange that makes gratitude so profound in the first place.
The goal isn’t to fill your notebook and conversations with countless declarations of gratitude, but to make gratitude a default feeling through conscious intent.
Be “other focused.”
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)
Barbara Fredrickson, professor in the department of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted an experiment with 77 romantic couples that yielded some interesting findings.
The couples participated in an exercise in which each partner wrote a thank-you note to their significant other in appreciation for something they had done for them. After the partner identified the benefit provided by the benefactor (the one who did the kind deed), the benefactor filled out a short survey about how they felt.
Researchers found a correlation between being “other focused” and relationship satisfaction. The findings suggest that when you express your appreciation in ways that make your benefactor feel seen and validated, gratitude serves to strengthen relationships.
So, how can we be more other focused in our appreciation? How can we adjust the way we give thanks in order to better highlight the other person?
Focus on the person who helped you in some way. Focus on the inherent qualities that they possess that inspired them to do what they did; how is their presence a positive impact on the world, on a daily basis? Though it’s important to let them know how their kind act affected you–how it made you feel and why–try to limit the me-focused language. Paint a picture of them, not you.
The more other-focused your expressions of gratitude, the more these expressions will serve as a booster shot for the relationship.
“Every day we have a new opportunity to find reasons to say thank you.” – Katrina Mayer
Whether you’re writing in a journal or telling someone why you appreciate them, get specific about your gratitude. What happened today that you’re grateful for? What exactly did they do today that gives you a reason to say thank you now?
What seemingly small act of kindness made your day a little brighter? Did someone compliment your hair, let you go ahead of them in line, send you a sweet text, do the dishes, surprise you with a smile, make you laugh about something you were stressed about, or respect your opinion?
I know that certain days prove to be a challenge when it comes to conjuring up genuine gratitude, but it’s amazing how many small things we can miss. The things we’re grateful for don’t have to be tremendous things. Sometimes, the smallest things grow into extraordinary things when we make room for them in our heart.
- How have you expressed gratitude in the past, and did you follow these (or any other) guidelines?
- How has a show of appreciation changed a situation, whether you were the giver or recipient of thanks?
Please share your thoughts, lessons learned through your own gratitude practice, what specifically you’re thankful for today, and any inspiring stories of gratitude with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone whom you’re thankful for.
Be always grateful.
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