Showing Gratitude By Giving by Brenda Thomas Ph.D.

If we examine our lives there is much for which we can be thankful. There are also many ways that we can give back to show our appreciation. These acts don’t have to be big or involve money.  A simple smile or a thank you are things that we can all do to help someone who is having a bad day feel just a little bit better. We can act as mentors and share our knowledge, wisdom or expertise with someone who will benefit from it.  Let’s turn off our cell phones and really listen when someone is talking to us. Give someone a compliment; you never know how this might help boost their self-esteem.

Numerous research studies have shown the physical and emotional well-being of participants who focus on things in their lives for which they are grateful.  It has been reported that they have lower levels of stress, depression and blood pressure. They also show improvement in their quality of sleep and feelings of joy.  Overall they have a more positive outlook on life. Interestingly the same type of results has been found in those who practice giving to others. As an example, in research focused on volunteering for organizations or helping loved ones, results show participants had higher self-esteem, satisfaction with life and a greater sense of purpose.  

Last spring I helped a high school student who was in jeopardy of failing to complete her requirements for graduation.  She had always been told that she would not amount to much in life and had come to accept that as fact. With encouragement and assistance, she not only finished high school but she was admitted into college where she is now thriving as a freshman.  Imagine how she must feel to have accomplished what she thought was impossible and the joy it gave me to have played a role in her success.

If you would like to experience the magic of gratitude but don’t know where to begin here are a few examples to get you started:  

  • Volunteer time or other resources to community organizations.  
  • Donate food, clothing and other items to those in need.
  • Open a door for someone.
  • Help someone learn a new skill.
  • Give someone who lacks transportation a ride.
  • Make a meal for a friend, relative or someone you know can use it.
  • Start a gratitude journal.
  • Be patient.
  • Do a free favor for someone.
  • Give thanks for today.

As you become more conscious of the power of gratitude and giving many more ideas will come to mind.  My challenge to you is to practice gratitude every day. Show appreciation for your good fortune and share your wealth with others.  In the words of Maya Angelou, “when we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed”.