One of the wonderful things about the Internet is how it can start — and sustain — some positive memes. One of them has been the concept of showing gratitude in your life, which I think has led to an increase in people practicing it in their lives. I've seen many friends use social media to do 10, 20, 30 or more days of expressing what (or who) they appreciate in their lives on a daily basis, and studies show that practicing appreciation makes you a happier person.
Most of us, even on our worst days, have plenty to be thankful for. We might even think it, or write it down in a journal or on our Facebook wall — and it's great to do that because the simple action makes you feel good too. Expressing gratitude is great, but too often we don't directly tell the people who have helped us feel that way.
I'm challenging you to do just that.
During the holiday season, many of us detail what we're thankful for from the year — and hopefully we will let close friends and family members know how they've made a positive difference in our lives. But what about everyone else? Here are some ideas so you can thank the other people in your life, some of whom you may see more often than your family!
Tip big. Especially if there's a server at the bar or coffee shop whom you see regularly, pick a day over the next week and give that person a fat tip. Say something like, "I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your awesome drinks/coffeemaking/sandwich prep skills. Thank you." That's it.
Drop a note in the tip jar. You can show appreciation even if you don't have the cash. A note that says how much you appreciate your barista's positive attitude in the morning, or how the sandwiches she makes really fuel you through your day, makes a person feel valued. Even a simple "thank you for your great work" is nice, though if you can personalize it, all the better. The important thing is to let people know you've noticed their efforts.
Give flowers. Food or drinks can be a nice show of appreciation at your office (or one that you frequent, like a doctor's), but with so many ways to eat, food allergies and diets going on these days, flowers are a better bet. Buy a half-dozen roses and give them out on your next errand day, or bring a bunch in to brighten the common area at work.
Write a letter. If you have a former teacher, mentor, coach or other person who you think of when tough decisions come up, write that person a letter letting him know that his words have stuck with you and influenced you.
Tell people's bosses. I do this as often as I can. If I've had especially great service at a restaurant or grocery store, I will ask to speak to a manager to share how great the person who helped me was. It takes two minutes and might mean a raise or a needed day off for the hard-working person who went the extra mile for you.
Use social media. Someone might make a difference in your life, even if you've never met them face-to-face. Go to a company's Facebook page or tag them on Twitter and mention how awesome the agent who helped you on the phone was — and give the person's name.
Do something tiny. If a busy neighbor goes out of his way to help you, sweep his driveway, move his newspaper out of the rain or pick up a cup of coffee for him when you're out getting one. Doing things unexpectedly (even very small things) can brighten a person's day in a big way.
Give compliments. Choose something small — the DMV lady's nails, the older woman's shoes or the bus driver's smile, and tell them you think it's nice. (Stay on neutral topics so people don't think you're hitting on them, but it's not as hard to compliment someone neutrally as pop culture would have you think.)
Open doors, clean up after yourself and say thank you ... every time. Being aware of the people around you and what they might need, and being considerate of their feelings is simply polite. But it's also a form of gratitude. Being mindful of other people is a kindness to them and ultimately, to yourself.
Give time off. If you regularly employ a great babysitter, assistant, personal trainer or other person who helps make your life better and healthier, show them your appreciation by giving them some paid time off. Cut a work session short or pay them for an extra hour that they're not actually working for you.
Gratitude is an amazing thing, because the more you give to others, the better it makes you feel.