Experts Say Gratitude Has Powerful Effects On You, So Here's How To Practice It More

by Julia Guerra

Actions speak louder than words, but the art of showing versus telling has seriously lost its edge over the years. For example, call me old-fashioned, but I write thank you notes for every occasion — after my bridal shower, my wedding, and I even sent handwritten letters to my advisers whenever I left an internship or job. I like to bring gifts to parties (mostly baked goods, because who doesn’t love dessert?), and I always make sure to thank my Uber drivers for the ride. Showing your appreciation doesn’t have to translate to grandiose gestures; little ways to show gratitude go a long way, too. So the next time a loved one, friend, or even a complete stranger makes your day a little easier, or says something to make you smile, don’t just say thank you — show them you’re thankful.

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of gratitude, research shows that any time you practice gratitude, both parties involved benefit from the gesture. To test this theory, ScienceDaily reports that researchers from the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas and The University of Chicago asked three study groups to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had shown them kindness. The participants were then asked to anticipate how they felt the recipient would respond to receiving their note. In the end, the study participants had overestimated how awkward the recipients of their letters would feel, and underestimated the happiness they actually felt upon reading the notes.

Going off of this research alone, the reason why you might hold back from showing gratitude in any capacity — big or small — seems to be because of that fragment of expectation, the fear that what you want to articulate won’t be communicated the right way, or that whoever is on the receiving end either won’t understand or appreciate the gesture, or that they'll just feel awkward about the entire ordeal. But it just goes to show that little ways to show gratitude are more than enough to make you feel good, and those who accept your gratitude feel even better. If you need some inspiration, here are a few simple ways to express your gratitude.

Say Thank You And Mean It

I realize that, throughout this entire article, I’m stressing this idea of little gestures, but when it comes to strangers like your mail carrier, Uber driver, bus driver, or barista — aka the kinds of people you don’t necessarily interact with on a daily basis — sometimes a simple “thank you” really can go a long way. TBH, I think back to all those times I would step off my train late at night with a sea of people, and I could count on one hand how many of them looked their conductor in the eye to say "thank you," or to wish them a good night. It’s disappointing to think this kind of interaction isn’t second nature, but it is something you can adopt.

“One of the ways to make practicing gratitude habitual is to be thankful every day in your everyday routine,” Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis, tells Elite Daily. “During your commute, thank the conductor for getting you to work, school, shopping, etc., or thank your mail courier. Everyone that makes our lives easier, thank them.”

Write A Sweet Note To Someone You Love

Science doesn’t lie, friend — if writing out a thank you card can bring both you and your recipient joy, why not put pen to paper and draft a sweet note? After all, according to Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, something as simple as a handwritten note is often the littlest gesture that has the biggest impact.

“[Gratitude] is a sign that you care enough to devote time to honor those who make a difference in our daily lives,” he tells Elite Daily. “It’s the effort that truly counts, and means the most to others.”

Keep A Gratitude Journal

Showing gratitude to others can be so rewarding, but sometimes, you need to remind yourself of the things you're grateful for in order to keep yourself grounded and feeling positive. Let's face it: Life gets in the way of your happiness sometimes, and once in a while, making a list of things that happened that day that brought you joy, or that made your to-dos feel more, well, doable, can reinstate those positive vibes.

Julie Potiker, a mindfulness expert and author of the book Life Falls Apart, But You Don’t Have To, tells Elite Daily she highly recommends keeping a gratitude journal to keep your spirits lifted and your stress levels low. "You only have to write the list once, unless you discover new things that bring you joy along the way," she says. "When you are feeling joy, remember to let it fill you up for a few breaths so that you are installing that positive mental state and rewiring your brain for more happiness and resilience."

Plus, what goes around comes around, right? Remind yourself of everything you have to be grateful for, and pass the positivity along. You really never know who's going to need it the most.