How to Be More Thankful

How to express more thankfulness in your daily life.


Thankfulness—which might also be referred to as gratitude or appreciation—is a positive, other-focused emotion (Emmons & McCullough, 2004). It generally involves positive feelings about another person's actions, but it might just be for the other person's existence—e.g., I'm just thankful to have you!

Thankfulness may just be one of the best things we can do to improve both personal well-being and our relationships. Both expressing and experiencing thankfulness are linked with happiness and other positive outcomes (Bono, Emmons, & McCullough, 2004). So, the more often and intensely we feel thankfulness, the better.

Perhaps this is why psychologists have recently taken an interest in studying gratitude and thankfulness more deeply. One of the most rigorous ways they’ve done this is by creating gratitude interventions—interventions designed to teach people how to practice gratitude in their real lives. Numerous gratitude intervention studies have now shown the benefits of gratitude (Davis et al., 2016). Some of the most common strategies used in these studies involve short activities—for example, the gratitude list, gratitude letters, gratitude journals, and listing 3 good things (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). These are short and easy ways to boost well-being.

Even though some people speculate that gratitude interventions may not be as efficacious as other more involved psychotherapeutic interventions, they may actually be more effective (Davis et al., 2016). That is, we're more likely to actually do them so they work better in the long run and in real life. They're easy, they're fun, and they're doable—and that's what really matters.

Benefits of Being Thankful

According to the research, the benefits of gratitude may include:

  • Having positive social interactions

  • Recalling deeply meaningful memories

  • Having easy, positive activities that can be done almost anytime, anywhere.

Importantly, cultivating gratitude appears to result not only in short-term benefits but in some sustained improvements in well-being over time (Davis et al., 2016). So here are a few phrases you can use when trying to be more thankful:

  • ​"I appreciate you."

  • "I am grateful for this opportunity"

  • "I just wanted to say thanks for ________"

  • "You’re great!"

  • "I'm so lucky to have you."

  • "You make my life better."

  • "I appreciate you doing _______."

  • "I appreciate you being _______."

Whenever possible, try to focus more on appreciating who people are rather than what they do for you. These expressions of gratitude are often more beneficial for the person you are sharing them with.

In Sum

Taking a few minutes each day to be thankful can be an easy and effective way to boost your mood and strengthen your relationships. Hopefully, this article was a good jumping-off point to inspire you and get you started.




References

  • Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in practice and the practice of gratitude. Positive psychology in practice, 464-481.

  • Davis, D. E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., ... & Worthington Jr, E. L. (2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of counseling psychology, 63(1), 20.

  • ​Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press.

  • Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410.

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