Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Expressing Gratitude

One thing that can drastically change a gloomy mood is being thankful. People often forget to be thankful. We're all busy people and after we've gotten what we wanted, it's easy to forget how we got it.

The point to being truly thankful is to do it daily and to thank even when things didn't quite go the way you wanted them to. This is hard - I often forget to do this myself, but it's a valuable habit that needs to become more of a habit for more people.

Being thankful is just another way to give and it goes along with receiving. It doesn't have to be elaborate, it just needs to be sincere.

My general rule is: when someone does something for you, whether you asked them to or not, but especially if you asked them, say "thank you". This goes for the waiter who just filled your water glass, even though he is "just doing his job" and it took him 15 minutes to notice your glass was empty. Same goes for your housemate for taking out the garbage each week (and so often we forget to thank our lovers/partners for the little things!).

Another rule I have is: even if you have said thank you in the past to a particular person, you may need to say it again. One reason for this is people often don't hear compliments or thank yous the first time. They might not even hear it the second time. It depends on the person. One might respond better to you saying it in person. If you know the person doesn't take compliments very well, try writing them a card.
I'm not saying you need to bend over backwards trying to use every method possible to express your gratitude, but I am advocating putting at least a little effort in and by all means, not being forgetful or lazy about it.
A hand written card/letter is always lovely. Hand picked flowers are even nicer than store bought. Home baked cookies better than store bought - because it's about the time and effort you put into it. It's the thought that counts!

Never assume that the person "just knows" you are thankful. Let's say you ask to borrow your neighbour's lawn mower every weekend. You've said thanks the first few times and maybe you've invited him/her over for a bar-b-q, you feel, as an exchange. This does not mean you're even and get to stop being grateful. After all, you still haven't bought your own lawn mower. As long as someone is being helpful, you need to keep being grateful.

Here's a little exercise to help you practice gratitude in your daily life:

Stand in front of a mirror: you have a lot to be thankful for. Can't think of anything? Start small. Afterall, you're standing (or maybe sitting, but that's just as good. You have a seat!). You have a mirror! You can see yourself and/or hear yourself. You're breathing!
You are engaging in the act of trying to be thankful and that's a start.
Once you've come up with a few things, say thank you out loud. Thank your hands for all the things they do for you. If your hands don't work so well anymore, thank them for the things they once did. You don't have hands? Thank the next best thing to them! You get the idea.
Once you start there, you can move on to bigger things. Say thanks for your family, health, love, money, sunrises and sunsets, music, absolutely anything. Soon you'll find you won't be able to stop coming up with things to be thankful for.
Just make it a part of your life and I guarantee you'll feel happier. It's just that simple :)



Kitty said...

"This goes for the waiter who just filled your water glass, even though he is "just doing his job" and it took him 15 minutes to notice your glass was empty."

Really? Because, to me, that means that they're actually NOT doing their job. Which means that they do not deserve a thank you.

Kelly said...

But does that opinion help *you* in a positive way? It probably leaves you feeling judgmental, deprived, neglected, impatient, maybe even upset and of course, very thirsty.

Maybe the waiter's mom just died. Maybe the waiter wasn't told it was important to fill glasses regularly and this is normal in this particular establishment (ostensibly because they want you to spend more on paid beverages). Maybe said waiter couldn't get to a tap and it was out of his hands.

The idea I'm trying to push is compassion and putting yourself in another person's shoes. Maybe you were a waitress before and did a much better job, but not everyone is given the same set of circumstances to work with and not everyone achieves the same level of perfection. By putting your standards on to someone else, instead of accepting things as they are, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. And no one, most importantly you, gains anything positive from that.