As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and how it impacts me and my relationships. Think for a minute about what it feels like when someone says to you, “Your smile made my day!” or “Thank you for checking in on me.” 

Several studies confirm the benefits of being grateful:

There’s something about not being taken for granted and feeling valued that makes people feel better. Gratitude warms your heart and can lift both the giver and the receiver out of despair. 

Gratitude impacts how we relate to others and how we feel about our circumstances. What you choose to focus on is where your focus remains. Concentrating on the negative when things are hard can overwhelm you and it teaches your brain to hone in on the worst. The alternative is to choose gratitude and find things you can appreciate during all the hard stuff going on in your life. 

A month or so into the pandemic, in the middle of “lockdown,” I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was a bubble machine from a friend that included a note saying how much she appreciated our friendship. She encouraged me to put that bubble machine to good use in our neighborhood to lift people’s spirits. Trust me when I tell you that bubble machine brought a lot of joy and laughter to people young and old.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. It’s an intentional effort though to acknowledge what we are thankful for and a willingness to receive gratitude from others. 

Now that you know practicing gratitude strengthens your relationships, you may be looking for ways to incorporate thankfulness into your life on the regular. If so, you’ll be glad to know there are lots of ways you can show people how thankful you are.

Here are five ways to practice gratitude that will strengthen your relationships:

  • Tell someone how much you appreciate ______________. Thankfulness says, “You matter.” 
  • Write thank you notes to people you are close to, including your children, spouse, parents and friends who wouldn’t necessarily expect anything. 
  • Write a letter thanking someone who has deeply impacted your life. Tell them you appreciate the ways they have encouraged and supported you.
  • Be intentional about expressing appreciation out loud. Sometimes we think about how grateful we are on the inside, but we forget to verbally say it to the person. It can be something as simple as telling your neighbor (instead of just thinking it) how much you enjoy all the flowers blooming in their yard or telling a family member how much you appreciate them checking in on you during COVID-19.
  • Keep a gratitude journal focusing on what you are thankful for in different relationships in your life. This is especially great for those times when you are struggling and need a good reminder of all you can be thankful for.

Practicing gratitude isn’t always easy, and it may even seem hard to be thankful right now, but our relationships will be much stronger and happier when we express our thankfulness to the people in our lives. 

Photo by Nicholas Bartos on Unsplash

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