When we think about gratitude, the two words that almost immediately come up are “thank you”. While this is an excellent place to start, gratitude is much more than a simple thank you. Gratitude is a meaningful recognition that someone took the time/energy/resources to give you something. Sometimes gratitude doesn’t come easily; it can be a challenge to express thanks to others in various situations. There are many languages of gratitude, and the key is to find the one that you can speak. Here are my top tips for finding your expression of gratitude:
- Use your words. While “thank you” may not always be everything, it certainly is a valuable and meaningful phrase. By telling someone “thank you”, you are completing a gratitude transaction. Along with your words of thanks should be the reason why you are grateful. Think about what was done for you… how was it impactful on your life? Share this with that person. Use the method that makes the most sense in your relationship: in person, a phone call, a text, or email. Pay attention to your tone; so much of communication is not based in your words but how you present them.
- Reciprocation. Remember the phrase “do onto others as you would have them do onto you”? People are often telling you what they need by giving that very thing to you. Have a friend who’s been a great listener during a hard time? Return the favour by asking what’s been on his mind.
- Recognize what they need. On the other hand, reciprocation doesn’t have to be identical to what you have received. Taking the time to recognize what the other person needs, whether it’s an ear to listen, a hug, a favour, or a meal, it is a great show of gratitude to acknowledge that we all need different things and to contribute to someone else’s needs.
Now that we have the people in your life taken care of, bring your focus to yourself. When was the last time you expressed gratitude to you? Your mind and body work hard for you on a daily basis, so recognize and acknowledge yourself. You can do so in a meditative moment by thanking your body for energizing you and allowing you to live your life. Think of the specifics that you are grateful for: I’m grateful for my strong legs that let me go hiking so I can see a mountain sunrise. I’m grateful for my abdomen that has accommodated my baby for the last nine months so I can cuddle my child now. I am grateful for my quick mind that troubleshoots all the challenges in my work day. Again, you can use your words, but gestures work too! Treat yourself to a wholesome homemade dinner, a foot rub that you give yourself, or even some hilarious YouTube videos to zone out your overworked mind. Whatever it is, make sure the gesture is suitable to the thing you are grateful for.
Expressing gratitude, to others or to yourself, is a satisfying way to complete an exchange of energy. Experiment and have fun with it. If you feel good about it, chances are your recipient will, too.
Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw. Book your appointment with Lauren today.