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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward
It’s probably no surprise to you that gratitude is one of the most effective ways to increase your own happiness—and the happiness of others. But did you know that practicing gratitude can also make you healthier, less stressed, and more optimistic? Plus, it’s even been shown to have positive effects on your career and relationships.
Gratitude is clearly a worthwhile practice, and there are tons of wonderful resources online (even here on Tiny Buddha!) filled with insights, inspiration, and ideas for practicing thankfulness.
Whether it’s writing in a gratitude journal, sending out a thankful note, or saying “thank you” to people you love, there are countless ways to express appreciation and thankfulness.
Embracing gratitude might not be so difficult when things are going well, but over the past few years I’ve discovered just how powerful gratitude can be when going through a difficult time.
After a lifetime of perfectly good health, last autumn I was unexpectedly faced with the challenge of having four surgeries. As someone who battles with extreme anxiety when it comes to anything medical (especially needles!), the prospect of surgery terrified me.
During this difficult time, I was so fortunate to have friends, family members, and even strangers treat me with kindness, love, and compassion—something that I know wasn’t always easy, given my panicky state of mind!
One of the ways I coped with my anxiety was transferring my attention from my apprehension to appreciation. Every time I found myself dwelling on my fears, I asked myself: What can I be thankful for? Who can I thank today?
While I won’t deny that four surgeries (and tons of bed rest!) was an unpleasant experience, it did give me the opportunity to have a life-changing revelation: expressing gratitude can be a transformative experience.
The more I focused on being thankful (and expressing that gratitude), the less time I had to ruminate on my worries.
Being thankful not only helped me to better cope with my worries, but expressing my appreciation to others helped me to strengthen my relationships with my friends, family members, and even my surgeon!
Whether you’re in the midst of one of life’s highs or one of it’s lows, you have a great deal to gain from taking your appreciation and sharing it with the world. Here are some of my favorite ideas for doing just that:
1. Like every post on friends’ social media feeds
Pressing a button to like a post might seem like a small thing, but in our digital age, this tiny act can be a great—and easy!—way to express gratitude.
Silly as it might sound, those little notifications can mean a lot to some people and, unless you actively disagree with what’s being conveyed in the post, why not show your appreciation for the person who shared it by giving it a thumbs-up or a heart?
2. Forgive someone who has hurt you
Forgiveness might not sound directly connected to gratitude, but when you forgive someone who has hurt you (with or without an apology), what you’re essentially doing is expressing gratitude for the experience and for the opportunity to experience compassion for someone else.
Forgiveness, mind you, does not condone the wrongdoing. It merely offers you a chance to free yourself from resentment and anger, which is a way to love yourself.
3. Connect two friends who might like each other
Friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts, and what better way to express gratitude for them than to help create more positive relationships?
If you think two friends might hit it off (either romantically or platonically), introduce them to one another. This is a great way to not only express your gratitude for friendship in general, but also to show these two people that you love and value them.
4. Donate clothing to your local homeless shelter
How many articles of clothing to you have that you don’t actually wear? If you sort through your closet and drawers, you’ll probably find tons of items you no longer need to keep.
Choosing to donate these items to those in need is not only a kind thing to do, but also a way of express gratitude for the time you were able to wear those clothes, for those who made the clothes, and for the opportunity to pass them along to someone in need.
5. Make and share a list of someone’s good traits
Do you ever have those moments when you look at a friend or loved one and think about how amazing they are? Don’t keep those thoughts to yourself!
Every time you notice something wonderful about someone else, write it down. When you have a nice little list gathered, share it with him or her to express how thankful you are for his or her wonderful traits.
6. Share your positive reviews with others
More often than not, when people take time to speak to a manager at a shop or restaurant or write an online review, it’s because they’ve had a bad experience and want to vent about it. But imagine what it would be like if people shared every positive they had with a product or service!
The next time someone is helpful or you enjoy a product, tell others about your experience. Leaving positive reviews and telling managers about positive employees is a fantastic way to express gratefulness.
7. Put your phone away when you’re with people
One of the absolute best ways to express your gratitude for others is by doing your best to be fully present in their presence.
This is not always easy (especially with all of the digital distractions!), but try your hardest to put your phone (away when you’re interacting with others. Doing so will allow you to be more appreciative of the experiences you have with them.
8. Write a handwritten letter (not just a note!)
You’re hopefully no stranger to the thank you note. A handwritten thank-you is one of the most impactful ways to express gratitude in an era when most people simply jot off an email or a text. But when was the last time you wrote a letter to express you gratitude?
Break out that loose leaf paper, a pen, and take some time write a full-page letter to a loved one, expressing your gratitude for everything they’ve done for you.
9. Pick up and throw away litter when you see it
Big picture gratitude is something that’s often ignored when thankfulness is discussed, but if you’re not spending time appreciating, and caring for, the world around you, you’re missing out on a great gratitude opportunity.
One simple and effective way to express appreciation for the world is to pick up and dispose of litter whenever you see it. It’s a small act, but if we all did it, the world would be a much better (and cleaner!) place.
10. Teach someone about something new
We all have unique skills and talents. Whether it’s something small (like mastering Snapchat) or big (like fully comprehending how quantum physics works), we all have knowledge we can share with others.
Sharing what we know allows us not only to show appreciation for others (after all, we value them enough to teach them something), but it also is a chance for us to be grateful for our personal knowledge and skills (and for the ways we were able to learn them).
Whether you choose to express gratitude using one of these creative gratitude tips or all ten, it’s my hope that they’ve inspired you in some way to think outside the box when it comes to showing appreciation for the people and experiences in your life.
Gratitude is one of the greatest ways to make your world a happier place, and the more you practice it, the more things you’ll find to be grateful for.
Editor’s Note: Dani has generously offered to give two sets of her two new books, Gratitude and Living in the Moment, to Tiny Buddha readers. To enter to win a free set, leave a comment below sharing something you’re grateful for. For an extra entry, share this post on one of your social media pages and include the link in your comment.
You can enter until midnight, PST, on Friday, September 16th.
About Dani DiPirro
Dani DiPirro is an author, blogger, and designer living in a suburb of Washington, DC. In 2009, she launched the website PositivelyPresent.com with the intention of sharing her insights about living a positive and present life. Dani is the author of Stay Positive, The Positively Present Guide to Life, the Effortless Inspiration series, and a variety of e-books.