I really do try to live my life paying attention to the people I come into contact with, the people who help me or show me kindness along the way. I try to thank those good people for the things they do, too. I don’t always do it well, but for folk’s sake I really try. Honest I do.
Not to let myself off the hook, but it’s humbling to note that it’s actually pretty impossible to thank everyone for everything they do. That would be a little bit crazy-Pollyanna, even for me – and it’s also downright unachievable. Thank heck.
For instance, it’s not like I am going to know who the person who popped that much-loved package with my name on it into the right pile at the mail sorting centre was, although I thank the person that bounds up our stairs and hands it to me on my doorstep.
I don’t know who picked those much appreciated coffee beans I merrily utilised in the darkness of the early morning, or even who ground or packed them. (But I can thank the lady who sold me the milk I sloshed in to the mug after the coffee’s brewed. Phew.)
Obvs, there are countless, invisible-to-us excellent types that make our days roll out in the ways they do. We don’t get to thank them, alas.
But there are heaps of people we can identify and do encounter. When I can say thanks, and quietly or loudly appreciate the things those people do, I try to make a habit of it, because it’s a good thing to notice how valuable and ace people are – and let them know they made a difference to your day.
Sometimes it’s just making a mental note about doing something for that person or saying something appreciative, down the track (due to their consistent rad-ness!) Sometimes it’s an actual overt live quick “hey, thanks!” type thing. That works too.
The aim is to not take good things, good deeds, kind thoughts and good people for granted, in short. And to balance that noticing with not obsessively, slavishly or fakely blurting out “thank yous”.
That’s important too. We can do it!
With all this in mind, I was interested to read a bit more about saying “thank you” and how it might pay dividends for our – and others’ – wellbeing.
Some say that being grateful – and thankful – kick-starts a feel-good chemical response within. This piece suggests gratitude releases happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin – and that anti-depressants seek to do the same.
“The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine,” it says in a quote attributed to UCLA neuroscience researcher, Alex Korb’s book The Upward Spiral.*
“One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life,” Alex’s book also says.
Science-y types pose other interesting theories about positive feedback and gratitude – and how it affects our brains – too. Recent research suggests that being thankful seems to spark changes in our brains that make us feel increasingly grateful for the people, places, things and deeds in our lives. The more we feel and express gratitude, the more easily we feel grateful and thankful down the track, sort of thing.
“The more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude “muscle” that can be exercised and strengthened (not so different from various other qualities that can be cultivated through practice, of course),” The NY Times reports.
Of course, gratitude has been so hot right now for quite some thankful time. Gratitude journals have been training us to notice the good little and good big things in our lives. Grateful-themed hashtags on social media have been helpfully shifting our focus to the best bits of our day.
I like this excellent, further tweak of turning grateful outwards.
Of harnessing a hefty wodge of thankfulness and demonstratively directing it in the direction of other good folk, not just our own self-reflective world. I think this helps us be better people and learn about ourselves and the strengths of others. And it gives the other person/people ideas about how they are impacting on the world, which gives them clues about how things are going generally for them, in terms of goals and purpose and similar lofty meaning-themed, motivation-type things. Etc.
Know that I am not knocking the gratitude journal in any way, shape or form. Instead I’m thinking this more vocal, other-focused “thank you!” habit is kind of like the cherry on the top of that already delicious gratitude journal cake.
This friendly “thank someone else” brand of social gratitude is apparently delightfully infectious. The NY Times puts it like this:
“Gratitude can spiral: The more thankful we feel, the more likely we are to act pro-socially toward others, causing them to feel grateful and setting up a beautiful virtuous cascade.”
So maybe you want to start your own (beautiful, virtuous) “Thank You” Cascade, in the knowledge that you are making someone else feel (even) more sure of their place in the world – and you are also getting a six-pack in the thank you part of your brain!
What is not good about all of that?!
18 Ways To Start A Thank You Cascade
- Just start saying “thank you” when people are ace.
- Text a friend a “thank you” for that thing they did last week.
- Make something for someone you appreciate and give them a friendly squeeze, too.
- Send that cute relative of yours a “thank you for being you” note.
- Write a “thank you” letter to a business you’ve had a good experience with.
- Cook someone something delicious and give it to them, with a bit of “thank you” chatter.
- Post a social media update to send a public “thank you” to a rad person/group.
- Say “thank you” to your pet. Give them a bit of a scratch too (unless they are a turtle.)
- Call your dear buddy and say “thank you” for the way they listened to you vent that one time (or maybe it was 385 times.)
- Say “thank you” to the person who inspires your creative work or study.
- Thank the postie. Or thank the garbage person. Or the newspaper delivery person.
- Say “thank you” to your kid – for dealing with you and your occasionally inappropriate responses under pressure.
- Thank your partner for that comforting thing they do for you, every day. (Comforting thing could be a sex thing. Could be a cup of tea. Your call. Good luck to you.)
- Thank the bottle shop person for purveying fine-ish sanity-saving wine in your direction.
- Say “thank you” to the birds that sing those nice songs in the morning, and to the cat that crosses your path on the way to the bus stop. (If your bus driver is nice, thank him too, but maybe not if he veers wildly and tries to scatter passengers like skittles.)
- Thank the teacher or carer in your life for the ridiculously important work they do.
- Say “thank you” to someone you work with, the one/s that makes you feel non-stabby and glad to be there.
- Or you could thank people in less overt, quieter ways.
These thank yous are the tip of the iceberg.
Really, there are one zillion more people and ways to thank and you will know the right ones for your life, if you take a bit of time to mull it over.
Do you want to start a Thank You Cascade?!
* I’m going to get that book!