Did you know that you can improve your health by saying thank you? Giving thanks is common to every culture. People give thanks before meals and say a thank-you prayer before bed. Thank you is one of the first responses a parent teaches a child, and it is essential for good manners. Why is giving thanks such an important part of every cultural tradition?
Giving thanks is more than simply a gesture of respect or politeness. It shows that we value what another person has done for us. It generates positive feelings and reinforces good behavior. In the workplace, appreciation and recognition encourages others to aspire to greatness. Expressing and receiving thanks makes us feel good. In fact, psychology studies have shown that saying thank you has important health benefits.
In one study, those who kept gratitude journals (daily list of things to be thankful for), felt better about their lives, exercised more, and were healthier physically. Participants had increased energy levels and improved goal-setting, alertness and enthusiasm. Adults with neuromuscular disease experienced higher energy, better sleep quality, and more optimism. Other studies found that expressing gratitude is related to habitual appreciation of the positive aspects of life, which in turn is linked to psychological well-being and lowered risk of psychological disorders. Appreciation and thankfulness was also predictive of better physical and mental health among heart transplant patients and reduced risk of subsequent cardiovascular events among those recovering from heart attack. Another study found that when people had loving, appreciative thoughts, their heart rhythms would follow a more rhythmic and coherent pattern. A number of studies have also shown that a grateful attitude improves depression and reinforces coping skills for dealing with stress and loss.
If we perform an act of kindness for another person and incur their gratitude, it makes us feel good and revitalizes our spirit. While some might be inclined to dismiss this as selfish altruism, when we experience a positive boost to our mental and emotional wellbeing we are more likely to show further kindness and empathy towards others. If you feel uncomfortable when thanked, this may be related to chronic feelings of inadequacy. Consider the emotional impact when gratitude is not expressed. You feel unappreciated and unneeded, leading to further loss of self esteem.
How can we enjoy health benefits of saying thank you?
1. Let others know you appreciate it when they thank you.
2. Be on the lookout for small things to be thankful for.
3. Keep a gratitude journal and count your blessings daily.
4. Don’t obsess if someone forgets to express gratitude.
5. Keep it simple. Going overboard with thanks can make others feel uncomfortable.
6. Think of non-obvious things to be thankful for.
Remember, when you say thank you, everyone benefits. Not only are you doing something positive for your own mental and emotional health, you are helping revitalize the minds and hearts of others.
“Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” – John Henry Jowett
Say Thank You More Often: hr-mc.vanderbilt.edu
Gratitude and Thankfulness: www.psychology.ucdavis.edu
Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Gratitude: www.psychologytoday.com
Effects on the Heart: www.appreciativeinquiry.case.edu