Last week, we talked about becoming more mindful of gratitude and how gratitude can improve your life. (I also showed you a fictional role model of gratitude.) This week, we’re going to extend outward, and talk about how your thankfulness can impact others.
Think about the last time someone thanked you. How did it make you feel? Did it have an impact on your day? Gratitude is an automatic pay-it-forward; when we experience it ourselves, we tend to pass it along. If we each throw a “gratitude pebble” into the pond, it will create a positive ripple effect throughout our families, friends and communities.
Now think about someone you appreciate. How will you share that appreciation? Here are a few ideas:
1. Write a good, old-fashioned thank-you note. I have to admit, I’m not very good at this. I may be a writer, but I don’t have good handwriting. If you have similar pen problems, you may want to send a thank-you email, but if you’re willing to make the extra effort, there’s a lot to be said for a handwritten note on good stationery. People tend to save notes, but rarely print out emails. Whether you choose a pen or a keyboard to write your missive, make sure to thank your recipient specifically, and speak from the heart. Your words will be cherished.
2. Give a gift. Nothing large, or over-the-top; I’m talking about a cup of coffee, some baked goods, or a small-denomination gift card. If you go overboard, your recipient might feel like he has to reciprocate, and that’s not your intention. You could leave it on their doorstop, in their mailbox, or at their desk at work. (One caveat: if you’re thanking your boss, I wouldn’t go this route. No matter how well-intentioned, it looks like sucking up. Go with the handwritten note.)
It can also be fun to give anonymous gifts. True, your recipient won’t know you’re the one thanking her, but it’ll instantly brighten her day (and add a little intrigue to it, too). You may get even more satisfaction watching your gift being opened from afar.
3. Return the favor. If you want to thank someone for bringing a meal to you right after your baby was born, reciprocate by cooking a casserole for her when someone in her family is sick. People like equality in their gifts and favors; not only do they feel appreciated, they also believe their previous gift/favor was validated.
4. Pass the kindness along to someone else. Instead of giving a gift or thanking the person directly, you can do a kindness or donate to a charity in his name. At one of the schools I teach in, the classroom teachers always collected money from the students to present the music teachers flowers or a gift on concert night. A couple of years ago, they started donating to the VH1 Save The Music foundation; instead of flowers, they gave me a card announcing the donation in my name. It felt good to know that my work on our concert also contributed to another school’s music program.
5. Just say it. Keep it simple. Walk up to someone you appreciate, smile, and say thank you. I guarantee, you’ll make their day.
What are some creative ways that you’ve thanked others? Has anyone thanked you in an especially meaningful way? Share your thank-you stories in the comment section- I would love to hear them!