Seven Ways to Express Gratitude

by Tom Larkin

What is Gratitude?
According to Harvard Medical School, gratitude is “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”

And, according to Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, it’s what makes us happy. This Ted Talk he gave captured more than 6,400,000 views indicating there is something there to learn.

Gratitude is a positive emotion that is felt after being the beneficiary of some sort of gift. It is a social emotion that is often directed towards a person (the giver of a gift), though it is also often felt towards a higher power. Gratitude is often felt when a gift is not necessarily deserved, or when the gift was not given in some sort of reciprocal sense.

I know lots of people who feel happiness by just contributing – they contribute with thank you post-it notes, meaningful eye contact and patience, overtime and coverage for a colleague who is pulled away by personal issues, to mention a few.

However, people are not hardwired to be grateful. Gratitude does require practice and the benefits of practicing gratitude can be life altering. There are three stages, says Dr. Robert Emmons, author of "Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier": recognizing what we’re grateful for, acknowledging it, and appreciating it. So, what keeps us from acting on this simple concept? Following are some suggestions on how to practice gratitude.

Seven Ways to Express Gratitude

1. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?” Write the answers to these questions for five consecutive work days and you’ll expand your personal awareness, and possible job satisfaction too.

2. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

3. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often, the best visual reminders are other people – try putting a new picture by your desk every month.

4. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day. Posting it creates ownership and commitment to do it.

8. Notice your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, begin to pay attention to the language you hear from those who demonstrate gratitude. Consider adopting new words to share your gratitude with others.

6. Give at Least one Compliment a Day
Give at least one compliment daily, whether directly to a person or by sharing your appreciation of something ("I love how quiet it is in the morning, don’t you?").  Remember to compliment yourself too!

7. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.

Don’t forget to show gratitude for yourself

To do so, Lori Deschene, the founder of Tiny Buddha, suggests that you:

  • Make a list of ways you’ve impressed yourself lately —say it while looking in the mirror, write it in a journal, or jot it on a sticky note and put it on your refrigerator.

  • Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a pedicure or a massage.

  • If someone compliments you, thank them and let them know you’re proud of that skill, talent, or accomplishment.

  • Give yourself time to enjoy a passion you’re sometimes too busy to fit in.

  • Take an inventory of all the good things you’ve done for other people and the world.

  • Write yourself a love letter. Seriously, start with “Dear Lori” (but insert your own name) and describe all the things you admire about yourself.

Every act of gratitude makes a difference. It can be as small as saying “thank you” or telling someone important how much they mean to you.

So, why not start today?

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~ Melody Beattie, author
“Gratitude is the open door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.  You open the door through gratitude.”
Deepak Chopra
Tom Larkin is president, CEO and co-owner of Communico Ltd. and has more than thirty years of experience as a consultant, coach, facilitator and business owner. He is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC ®  and is a part-time professor at Fairfield University.
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