This time of year, just before Thanksgiving, I am always thinking about writing thank you cards to those I love and appreciate. I think about writing a blog about giving thanks or gratitude but alas I am generally still in a sugar coma from Halloween which we know is the beginning of candy season. So, until now those ideas had lain among the Junior Mints and Jujuy Fruit boxes.
Giving thanks, showing appreciation, sending love and being truly grateful for the people and things that make life worth living is a powerful tool. Not just for the receiver but also for the giver. For the receiver getting thanked when the thanks are heartfelt and genuine is lovely and even sometimes overwhelming. I am not talking about oblatory thanks we do out of guilt or to be liked. But rather being thanked in a wholehearted way, this is something we feel in our chest not just hear. It is a visceral experience.
A thank you is hard to hear sometimes, to let someone thank us. I have been terrible at receiving those lovely thank you’s over the years. My MO was to deflect, make a joke, move on quickly. That was disservice to those who were loving and genuine because I was awkward and embarrassed. I have become better at just saying you’re welcome, making eye contact with the person instead of my shoes and being in the moment. These same rules hold true of being complimented as well.
It dawned on me a few years ago that I like complimenting people and thanking folks for their help, support etc. It was important to me that they knew I appreciated them and their contributions to my life. So why should I deprive others of the same experience I enjoyed, by being a bad receiver. Just because in those days I was socially the equivalent to a badger, the least congenial of the weasel family, not like the otter a real charmer. This being said I worked on my receiving skills practicing being present and just listening and soaking it in. Soaking that love in helps for the bad days when I feel defeated and lost.
If soaking in the love of thanks and appreciation is good for the receiver it is as good or better for the giver. When we show gratitude, give thanks the love is a boomerang that comes right back to us. We rarely tell those closest to us what they mean to us, even in small ways or gestures. Doing this more regularly grows trust, deepens bonds and strengthens the relationship. This is true for co-workers, neighbors as well as friends and family. It helps us see more of the good in people, in situations in giving thanks and being grateful for all that we do have. Being happy for what we have, being grateful is the fertile soil of a good life.
Gertrude Stein said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
If you aren’t good at thanking people, it just takes practice and just a little vulnerability. Tell them specifically what they did you are grateful for, how it made you feel and say, “thank you”. That’s it. Giving thanks, showing gratitude is like love: it needs to be shared. It doesn’t have to be a big production either, a kind heart felt comment, a small note. Whether it is the giver or receiver everyone needs to be in the moment, make eye contact feel what they feel and hold on to the good stuff. I encourage you all to, in the next week or two, consider adopting a practice of gratitude, of giving thanks. Think of at least two people who you are grateful for and thank them. Then practice doing it again with other people the next week and the one after that. Before long, it becomes a habit, and it is just a part of who you are. Just another happy grateful person.