There’s nothing quite like that clean slate feeling of a new year to inspire healthy new habits. And fittingly, January is National Thank You Month, offering the perfect opportunity to start (or recommit to) a thankfulness practice that, alongside spreading goodwill and kindness to others, carries plenty of benefits for both your mental and physical well-being.
According to Mayo Clinic, when you feel and express gratitude, you may enjoy improvement in your sleep, mood, and immunity, as well as a reduction in depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and the risk of disease.
And it’s the gift that keeps on giving, to others and to yourself. Research substantiates that actions conveying gratitude have a greater impact on our health than simply feeling grateful, per Positive Psychology. Furthermore, extending acts of gratitude creates a “self-renewing, feedback loop”: The more you practice thankfulness, the more your well-being and resistance to negativity increases, making it easier to sustain that feeling of gratitude.
While smiling and saying thank you are tried-and-true gestures, and always perfectly lovely, here are seven additional ways to show you’re thankful.
Send a Handwritten Thank You Note
Yes, it’s much easier to issue a simple “thanks!” — be it spoken or sent via text or email — but putting pen to paper, finding a stamp, and mailing a heartfelt note of gratitude to someone shows that person they’re important to you and worth the extra effort. Plus, it’s always fun to receive snail mail, especially when it’s cheery and colorful. In need of some inspiration for writing a meaningful thank you note? Check out these tips from Reader’s Digest.
Whether you’re saying it or writing it, it’s important to be specific when complimenting or thanking someone: This means expressing why you are grateful to someone.
“When showing gratitude, you may use general phrases like ‘thanks for your help’ or ‘I appreciate the time you spent on this project,’ but one of the best ways to show your gratitude is to acknowledge how others have specifically helped you succeed,” Kevin Daum explained in his “6 Unusual and Powerful Ways to Show Gratitude” article for Inc. “Resist the temptation to be too general. Share a specific example of what they did for you and how it made a difference. If they inspired you to push outside your comfort zone, thank them for inspiring you to take the risk, and let them know the outcome.”
This approach acknowledges the care, time, and effort that someone extended to you and shows your deep appreciation for them as a person.
Pair Your Thank You With a Simple, Thoughtful Gift
Gifts don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to express gratitude. Small tokens that are well thought out and personalized are a tangible way to show an individual how much they mean to you.
Delivering a plate of homemade cookies or flowers, or adding to someone’s prized collection of coffee mugs or postcards, paired with your heartfelt thank you, can make someone’s day.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals are a mainstay in thankfulness practice for a reason: They work.
Developing a ritual — perhaps with your morning cup of coffee, or before going to bed — in which you write down things you’re grateful for, be those people, things, pets, or special moments, is associated with better sleep, lower stress, and improved relationships. Beyond leading to a more positive mindset, gratitude journaling has also been linked to a significant drop in diastolic blood pressure, per UCLA Health.
If you’ve never journaled before and aren’t sure how to begin, or if you could simply use some fresh inspiration, Greater Good has some excellent pointers on what to focus on in your practice.
If you’re looking for even more guidance to start your practice, Mayo Clinic offers a free, virtual self-guided course called Discover Gratitude, which incorporates downloadable journal sheets. Find out more and register here.
Show Your Appreciation for a Service Industry or Healthcare Worker
Interfacing with the public is a tough job, often subjecting those in such lines of work to frequent complaints and even abuse. Leaving a nice tip for an excellent server, writing a positive review for a small business, or taking the time to email a compliment about an incredible nurse to his or her supervisor can make a world of difference in that person’s day.
Make It a Priority to Notice What Those Around You Are Doing Well
As described by BBC, humans have a built-in negativity bias and tend to remember criticism more than praise. It’s connected to our survival instinct by guiding us to pay special attention to threats and to inflate dangers.
While this way of thinking is responsible for keeping us safe and alive, it also unfortunately makes it easier to focus on the negative, in ourselves and others. It’s important to counteract this negativity bias by purposefully noting — and calling out — what those around you do well. Check out VerywellMind’s list of over 100 positivity-boosting compliments for inspiration.
Be Sure to Show Yourself Appreciation
As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. But we all know how easy it can be for our cups to run empty amid the busyness of life, which in turn can affect our relationships.
In the article “Why Appreciation Matters So Much” in Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz recommends first practicing appreciation by starting with yourself, and then making it a priority to notice what others are doing right. “If you have difficulty openly appreciating others, it’s likely you also find it difficult to appreciate yourself. Take a few moments at the end of the day to ask yourself this simple question: ‘What can I rightly feel proud of today?’” he writes.
“If you are committed to constant self-improvement, you can also ask yourself, ‘What could I do better tomorrow?’” he continues. “Both questions hold your value.”