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  • Dr. Brian Kleinberg

Be Grateful! Your Health Will Thank You!

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

“Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” - Margaret Cousins

Giving and receiving thanks should be a regular part of your daily life. How often do you say thank you for the service or kind gestures done to you by others? Do you give thanks to relatives, friends and co-workers who have helped you, continue to support you and have made a difference in your life? Do you acknowledge yourself or thank yourself for a job well done? Do you count your personal blessings and your accomplishments? Do the people that you work with acknowledge you for the work that you do? Are you receiving thanks for all your efforts, time and input?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, you are living a life filled with appreciation and gratitude. Acknowledging and being acknowledged is a fundamental part of human growth and mental well-being. If you can’t answer the questions above with an affirmative, you may be missing a vital component in your personal life and career.

Studies have shown that people who experience gratitude on a regular basis improve brain function and experience more happiness. In a University of Berkeley study in 2016 of 300 college students who were receiving psychological counselling, one group was asked to write a gratitude letter to another person weekly for 3 weeks. Another group only wrote about their deepest fears and negative feelings and the third group did not write anything. After 12 weeks the “gratitude letter” group reported significantly better mental health. The researchers at Berkeley identified the following psychological benefits of gratitude:

  • Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions.

  • Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it.

  • Gratitude’s benefits take time and practice. You may not feel it right away.

  • Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain.

Giving and receiving gratitude is critical to your well-being. You don’t need studies to tell you how good you feel when somebody appreciates what you do, or you appreciate yourself for what you’ve achieved. A lack of gratitude can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, resentment, anger, frustration and depression. That’s why it’s very important to work hard on giving and receiving thanks and acknowledgement in your daily life. The good news is, you can build an attitude of gratitude and reap the benefits of better mental and physical health. Here are some ideas that can help:

Gratitude for Others:

  • Start saying thank you more often to everybody who helps you in any way, even if it’s in the simplest manner. Thank your bus driver, store clerk, medical office receptionist and call centre operator who spent hours figuring out your technical issue. Thank your relatives and friends for all their acts of help and kindness.

  • Give appreciation to your co-workers whether they are employers or employees. Creating an atmosphere of gratitude in your workplace will elevate the morale and productivity of everybody who works there.

  • Try to say thank you in person as opposed to writing text messages or by phone. Social media has unfortunately physically isolated people from each other and the more interaction we have by just simply going over to another person and saying thanks can be a powerful gesture. We all need to do more of this!

  • Be mindful of the helpful and kind gestures of others and don’t wait to say thanks. Saying thanks to another human being empowers that person and makes them feel appreciated. And it empowers you by giving you a sense of doing the right thing. It’s a win-win situation for everybody!

Gratitude for Yourself:

  • Giving thanks is a pay it forward idea. If you are grateful for who you are and what you have, it’s easier to give thanks to others for what they do for you because you practice an attitude of gratitude.

  • You have just succeeded in a big win or even a small win. Every win is an accomplishment for you and should not be overlooked. The opportunity to acknowledge yourself is a powerful tool of building your self-esteem and energizing yourself for further tasks and goals that you have. Don’t hesitate to reward yourself even if it’s simply to take some time off or buy yourself a small gift of personal appreciation.

  • The idea of having a “gratitude journal” is fantastic. This allows you to keep track of the accomplishments in your life. We live in a world of hyper-cynicism, negativity and insecurity. The antidote is positive acknowledgement of who you are and what you’ve succeeded to do. This is a powerful mental health exercise!

  • Count your blessings and focus on what you have. It’s easy to fall into a trap of feeling that you don’t have things or you’re missing out (FOMO). Record your blessings in your gratitude journal.

Gratitude from Others:

It’s hard to get others to say thanks when it’s not something that comes naturally or happens spontaneously. This is especially critical in your workplace. The Berkeley researchers have come up with 5 suggestions to build an attitude of gratitude in your workplace:

  • The top down effect of gratitude: CEO’s and team leaders must consistently say thanks to employees in private and in public settings. Performance reviews should include acknowledgement for positive efforts. A corporate culture of gratitude must start at the top.

  • Make sure everyone gets thanked: Organizations and companies should not limit rewards or thanks to their prominent figures. Every person in the company makes a significant contribution and these people should periodically be recognized for the work that they do. Make every person feel that he/she counts and is recognized. This creates improved morale and employee retention.

  • Make gratitude authentic: Thanking people too often non-specifically can actually be counterproductive. Show gratitude to people based on the specific details of what they have accomplished. The thanks will be felt more sincerely and feel less contrived.

  • Provide opportunities for gratitude: Thanks can be given in creative ways including non-monetary gifts, gratitude journals or thank you posts on a company website, acknowledgement of people for specific contributions to the company and periodic gratitude ceremonies.

  • Gratitude helps in times of crises and stress: As the researchers note: “There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals.”

Practice exercising your “thank you muscle” on a daily basis. You will build gratitude all around you and make yourself a healthier person.

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