Two little words that we hear on a daily basis, and yet there seems to be a strong deficit in the number of times we use this expression. In recent months I’ve observed the impact of “thank you” and the ways in which this can be therapeutic, beneficial, and overall healthy for an individual.
I was speaking to my friend Nathalie a little while ago, on a typical Monday, during which everything seemed to be going wrong. I was overtired, lethargic, cranky, and had had a recent social situation that seemed to be occupying my mind. I sent her a text message to discuss everything, simply needing a place to ventilate. She listened attentively and joined in the “Monday Woes” as we shared our complaints of the day. But then, after I finished my slew of messages, she reminded me of something valuable. She had given me her feedback and advice, told me that among my fieldwork, outside work, and school, I needed to take some time for myself. “And don’t forget to be grateful,” she told me.
While I was busy lamenting my situation, sending sad-faced emotions about my lack of sleep, she reminded me that there is a great value to reflect on one’s current situation, and to always find a way to be grateful. So I began by telling her “thank you.” Sometimes when we reach out to a friend, we assume that thank yous are unnecessary. I find myself telling people, “no need to say thank you, this is what friends do.” And yet, there is a value in saying that thank you anyway, to show appreciation and remind others that we recognize what they’re doing.
Before I recovered from anorexia I had difficulty reaching out to others for support. My eating disorder had been isolating and I didn’t feel as if there was much of a purpose in speaking to others, as they would “never understand.” I finally began to open up, when I trusted others to not only hear about my day but also about my difficulties and struggles. It was novel to me that others could care or empathize with my situation. But I was grateful that even when they didn’t know what to say, they tried. The effort was noble.
Since then, I have discovered who my true friends are and who are the people in my life whom I can trust when I’ve had a bad day or encounter a tough situation. It may not be a large group, but they are solid friends and for them, I am grateful.
But it is not only our friends to whom we must show gratitude. It is also our families; at times we take for granted the love and support families can offer. Moreover, it can be easy to forget to say “thank you” for the little things: a parent or sibling making dinner, a ride to the mall, sending that encouraging text message before an important event.
We can and should be mindful to be thankful to others for all that we have and all that we’re given, even when we’ve grown used to the kindness of others. We can also say thank you to those we encounter during the day; the bus drivers, the random people who hold the door for us, the security guard. Showing small gratitude can go a long way. Above all, of course, we can express gratitude to God for our lives and for the wonderful things that are bestowed upon us.
Furthermore, there is a great lesson in saying thank you even when things aren’t so great. It can take courage and strength to be able to feel blessed even when it feels like the walls are crumbling down. How can this be achieved? By being able to take a step back and say thank you during the times when we may feel least appreciative, and by acknowledging that the current situation will not last forever. Or perhaps by saying thank you for the other positives in our lives and by recognizing that it is only because we are blessed with life that we can experience the hardships, this is growth.
So whether you’re simply coasting through life, or having a difficult day, or experiencing a struggle, be mindful of the positive effects gratitude can yield. Not only can it take you beyond the situation and help focus on the bigger picture, but it can bring joy to those around you as it is comforting for every person to know that she/he is appreciated by others.
By Temimah Zucker