Giving Thanks: How Gratitude Can Make Us Happier

The next big event that most of us are preparing for is Christmas, but for our friends across the pond, Thanksgiving is just as big. Turkey Day, as it is also known, is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. Traditionally a day for giving thanks for the year’s harvest, it is also a time for reflection, gratitude and spending time with friends and family.

While many might not celebrate Thanksgiving this side of the Atlantic, its theme of gratefulness and appreciation is relevant at any time. Joy is often in the little things and the therapeutic benefits of keeping a gratitude journal have long been praised.

Take a look at a few ways to easily give thanks and by return contribute to our own mental wellbeing and happiness.

Giving Thanks to Others

We often associate showing our thanks to other people with physical gifts of appreciation. A thank you card; a box of chocolates in return for a favour. While these are always well received, there are several other ways to show gratitude for people around you every day.

  • Listen actively when people are speaking and give them your full attention. When people are truly present in a conversation, it makes us feel more valued. (You are also more likely to remember what they’ve told you!)
  • Volunteer for unpleasant tasks. Get up and do the 3am bottle-feed. Offer to clean the car. Help a loved one with a household chore you know they dislike but always do, such as taking out the rubbish or cooking after a long day.
  • Share what you have. This can be material possessions, like sharing snacks, lending someone a book or letting the neighbours have that cup of proverbial flour but can also also extend to sharing your knowledge or talents. Teaching someone how to do something is rewarding for both of you and one of the best ways to enjoy a real connection with someone.
  • Express your thanks. Telling someone how grateful you are for them is extremely encouraging, especially if the person has been struggling with their own mental health. Top Tip: It means even more to detail exactly what they did or do that makes you so grateful rather than just generic thanks as it shows that you’ve noticed their efforts, and allows them to reflect on what they do well.

Giving Thanks to Yourself

It’s common to struggle more with thanking yourself than other people. But we are all worthy of praise for our efforts and gratitude for the things we do. While we are busy seeking approval and appreciation from those around us, it’s important to recognise that we can offer all those things to ourselves.

  • Give yourself time off. This could be time off work, an afternoon without the children or a break from a demanding hobby. Practise your passion. Allow yourself to do nothing if you want. The important part is taking time during which you have no responsibilities but yourself, and your mind is given space to fully relax.
  • Try a new food. There are countless flavours and cuisines out there. Indulging yourself with a delicious treat you’ve never tried can open up new tastes and sensations that are hugely enjoyable and rewarding.
  • Pamper yourself. Everyone’s version of this is different, but rewarding your body is a good way to remind your brain that you deserve praise. If you’re not one for spa sessions or mud masks, gift yourself a lie-in, or a run or even indulge in a fancy coffee while taking a walk.
  • Speak kindly to yourself. We tend to speak more politely to others than we do to ourselves. If you fail or stumble at a hurdle, be encouraging. Don’t let your inner critic take over the narrative, rather, try to speak to yourself in the same way you might talk to your best friend. You wouldn’t ridicule them or say they aren’t good enough. Tell yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes and that the key is to keep going.
  • Practise mindful gratitude for a week and see if you feel more at peace by the end of it. 

It’s often difficult to be thankful when you’re experiencing a tough situation – and this year has challenges by the bucket-load. However, taking stock of what’s around you, and giving thanks for the people in your life and your own strengths can really help put things into perspective.