Expressing thanks is one of the most widely recommended strategies for increasing happiness. Studies show that people who more frequently think about and express gratitude tend to be happier and less lonely or anxious. They cope better with stress and trauma and are more forgiving, helpful and empathetic. According to happiness expert Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, saying thank you also boosts your self-esteem.
Follow these 8 steps and give yourself a boost.
Change your ways
Increase the psychological benefits you experience from expressing thanks by varying the ways you say thank you. Thanks can be offered verbally or in writing, privately or publicly, or through actions. In choosing how to thank a person, ask yourself what type of thanks would mean the most to that particular person.
Say thank you to people you usually don’t thank. The happiness-enhancing effects of experiences are generally greatest when the experiences are new and surprising. Expressing thanks also strengthens social bonds, so saying thank you to a wider net of people is likely to enhance your feelings of community and belonging.
Write it down
Studies show that for many people keeping a gratitude journal is effective for promoting happiness. The more you think about what you’re thankful for, the more you’re likely to notice opportunities to express thanks. Self-experiment by writing in a gratitude journal when you notice something you are grateful for.
The gift of giving
Giving socially-conscious presents is linked to greater enjoyment of gift-giving. A past study found that people who gave environmentally-friendly presents and charitable donations reported greater satisfaction and wellbeing. As we grow more aware of our world, more and more people now prefer non-traditional gifts, too.
A positive boost
When you are feeling blue or stressed it is especially important to think about expressing thanks. Finding someone to thank or do something kind for is a good strategy for lifting yourself out of a negative mood.
Paying attention when you are thanked by someone else is an important skill in the art of saying thank you. We’re sometimes so distracted when people are attempting to thank us that we barely notice we’re being thanked, or we dismiss it as “no big deal.” This kind of dismissive behaviour invalidates both yourself and the person thanking you.
Giving heartfelt thanks sometimes involves practising forgiveness when it comes to the less desirable elements of other peoples’ behaviour. Remind yourself that choosing to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship with that person is likely to leave you feeling better than ruminating about the negative aspects.
Give thanks to others
“Pay it forward” acts of kindness are an excellent option for expressing gratitude when you can’t directly thank those you feel grateful for. Ways of doing this include supporting causes so other people can access whatever it is you feel grateful for, or deliberately increasing your variety of kind behaviours.