The Art of Gratitude at Christmas

Randy Pausch, author of The New York Times best selling book The Last Lecture and professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University says, “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”

Gratitude. It’s such a simple thing. Maybe that’s why it is so frequently overlooked. We live in a world now where everything moves so fast that the simple act of saying thank you, showing that you appreciate what has been done for you or given to you by someone, is being left behind. Are we so focused on hitting “like” and “favourite” on our devices, that when it comes to the real world we’ve forgotten how to communicate “thank you” in everyday life?

Not showing gratitude can have lots of negative consequences. In the workplace, if you don’t show your colleagues that you value their work, this can lead to resentment and a lack of motivation. If you don’t show family members gratitude you may come across as arrogant and ungracious. People will stop going out of their way to offer help or support. As if that weren’t enough, people who are grateful are happier, healthier and feel more fulfilled.

William Arthur Ward, one of America’s foremost writers of inspirational maxims and captain in the United States Army, says “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” How true. It is hard to say thank you sometimes. Of course there are many other ways to show gratitude other than saying thank you.

Here are some simple ways to show gratitude to those closest to you at the festive time of year.

writing-300Write a note

This is physically acknowledging that someone has done something that you appreciate. It gives the person something to take away, keep and maybe treasure. It doesn’t even have to be a thank you note, it could be a post it that you leave on the kitchen table or a note on the fridge.

Offer to help clean up

As the saying goes, if everyone does a little, nobody has to do a lot. Taking the burden of housework away leaves that person with a little more free time. Encourage the person to take a rest while you and the family do some of the heavy lifting.

Listen

Let your family know that you are there for them if they ever need to talk. Just knowing that you are there as a support mechanism can make a huge difference to someone.

Take the time to appreciate the small things

If someone makes you a cup of coffee, make them the next one. Make them the next two cups, exceed their expectations and watch them smile.

A Time For GivingSay thank you

Saying thank you helps build bridges. If relations between you and a family member have become frosty, a great way to break the tension is to show gratitude for something they have done for you over the Christmas period. It breaks the ice like nothing else.

Be enthusiastic about your colleagues

In work, make a note when one of your colleagues has done something worthy of appreciation. Don’t keep the information to yourself, share it. Task management systems such as Asana have even started recognising the value of gratitude. Asana now has a new feature called Asana Hearts that encourages you to “share gratitude and enthusiasm with your team.” You could even write a note or send an email.

Saying thank you for small things costs nothing, doesn’t take much time and has many benefits.

It strengthens relationships. People enjoy being appreciated and the memory lasts. You are more likely to do something for someone that you know will appreciate your effort.

It is good for your physical and psychological health. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis has studied more than a thousand people and found that people who practice gratitude consistently have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure. Psychologically they are more alert, alive, awake and optimistic about their lives.

Being grateful is actually good for you. It takes a little bit of effort but the long term rewards are worth it in the end. Show some gratitude to loved ones, especially at Christmas. As Brother David Steindl-Rast says in his thought provoking TED talk: “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Click here to see Rose’s tips for healthy and happy relationships

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