Expressing gratitude is somewhat more challenging than feeling it but is important to master.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward.
Gratitude can be expressed to those around us or to a higher power. I sometimes find it difficult to express gratitude and it is something I am continuing to work on. I feel it, but how will the person know I’m grateful to them if I never tell them?
As a Christian, I express gratitude to God through prayers, sometimes a quick arrow prayer for something as simple as a parking spot or a green traffic light, other times a more complex and detailed chat about some of what I’m grateful for before drifting off to sleep or whilst sitting quietly in nature. I have friends who verbalise their gratitude with a quick “praise the Lord” or “thankyou Jesus.” Other faiths and belief systems often thank their own deity, a prophet or the universe.
But what about expressing gratitude to those we spend every day with, our human colleagues, companions, family and friends?
Each one of us expresses gratitude a little differently, as a result of our personality, upbringing and experiences. I love the idea of thankyou cards sent via old fashioned snail mail. I have a collection of thankyou cards which I had the best intentions for. My plan was to write and post one each week. This doesn’t sound like a huge chore, yet I rarely achieve it. I just forget. I do have a higher success rate when it comes to sending a text or making a Facebook post. I continue to work on my verbal expression of gratitude to be more specific and go further than a simple thanks.
I recently received a lovely thankyou from a student. At the end of a teaching contract, she approached me and said, “Thankyou for the time you’ve spent with us and the work you’ve done. It’s been a great few weeks.” I was blown away. Not only is it rare for a student to thank a teacher, but her thankyou was heartfelt, specific and spoken with quiet confidence. Her thankyou was a real treat and a boost in a job which gets very little thanks. This same student also thanked me when she received a student of the week award. No entitlement there, just gratitude – how lovely to experience.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” – Margaret Cousins
Gratitude In The Classroom
Within the classroom, I try to include gratitude lessons and activities. One of my favourites is to send kids off with an ipad to take a single photo of something within the school they think is beautiful. This encourages them to find beauty in their everyday surroundings, to search for the extraordinary amongst the seemingly ordinary and to feel gratitude about their surroundings. It is a task which is easier at some schools than others, but always possible. On returning to class, they must share their image and explain their choice. Photos taken have included crows (much maligned for stealing lunches out of schoolbags) flowering plants, the sun viewed through the gates of student toilets, a friend, a low angled shot of a toy car in the sand play area, school supplies, our class mascot and a bike rack. The photos are then combined into a short movie and set to music. Several years ago, grade six used their movie set to U2’s Beautiful Day as a morning routine song. It played as they entered the classroom and when it finished, they were at their desks ready for the first lesson of the day. That particular class also studied some of the song lyrics and discussed the images of beauty it contains before finding their own images of beauty. I’ve called it a positivity or a gratitude project with different classes and have repeated the exercise with slight variations several times. The kids love spotting their photo in the movie and it always sparks valuable discussions around the topic of gratitude and looking for the good or the beautiful in everything.
A Kindness Challenge is another easy way for children to express gratitude to others. We discuss what kindness looks like and regularly reflect on acts of kindness done for us by others. As we talk about each one, we colour a heart on a chart, with the goal of recognising 100 acts of kindness before the holidays. Recognising everyday kindness encourages an attitude of gratitude and gives students the opportunity to practise expressing gratitude. Many kindness acts are simple things like compliments, lending a pencil, helping with a maths problem. Thinking about, recognising and expressing gratitude for acts of kindness is a simple act that makes a big difference.
It saddens me when some children state very matter of factly that they have nothing to be grateful for. Thankfully most can be talked around and come to see at least a few items they can actually be grateful for. However, some adults continue to live without gratitude. It is a loss not only to themselves, but to those around them. An ungrateful attitude finds fault rather than beauty in everything and loves to let others know about it. I’m sure we all know someone like that and can also be guilty of it ourselves. I believe entitlement is the opposite of gratitude. Perhaps by training ourselves and our children to feel and express gratitude, both at home and at school, we may be able to reduce the entitlement so often seen today.
Gratitude In The Real World
I do quite a bit of online shopping. Many companies pop a thankyou note in the order or a thankyou statement on the bottom of the invoice, which I love. It’s really just good business, as a customer who feels valued is more likely to return, but it does feel good to get a little thankyou in your package. My most recent order from Alyce Alexandra took the expression of gratitude a step further. Included in my package was a personalised Thankyou card, thanking me for my custom. It was pretty enough to keep but the really special bit that got me so excited I had to share it on Instagram, was a second card for me to use to thank a friend. How cool is that? Not only is this company expressing gratitude, but they’re spreading the love and helping their customers do the same.
This week, I attended a book launch by Tofe Evans. I met Tofe when I visited schools in PNG a couple of years ago. My first impression was that he was crazy, as he was running the Kokoda Track with a couple of friends, finishing each day of hiking by lunchtime. I’ve since discovered he is so much more. Whilst launching Everyone Has A Plan Until Sh!t Hits The Fan, Tofe shared his take on Practical Resilience. He believes practical resilience is a result of three main factors – adversity, mindset and gratitude. Fancy that! Gratitude is a major factor in resilience. To be more resilient, be more grateful (amongst other things, of course). Tofe also puts this idea into practice by thanking all those who attend his events both in person at the event and afterwards as a group on social media posts.
“A grateful mindset amplifies happiness and mental and emotional wellbeing.” – Christopher Dines
April Gratitude Challenge
As we launch into a new month, I’m committing to expressing gratitude to someone who has touched my life at least once daily. This could take many forms – a note or card, text message, email, social media post, a small gift or a coffee for example.
I will prepare a written thankyou or a gratitude gift once a week and use verbal expressions of gratitude or texts on other days. I’ll keep a diary of my progress and report back with any changes I notice, either in myself or others.
Are you up for an April Gratitude Challenge but need help to organise yourself or track your progress?
Here’s some cute little crafty ideas to help you keep on track:
- Cut strips of pretty coloured paper. Each day, write the way you expressed gratitude and join it to previous days’ links. By the end of the month, you’ll have a pretty little gratitude chain like this one at kiwicocorner.
- Pre-print this pretty gratitude garland from somewhatsimple.com and write each day’s gratitude expression on a strip. Staple onto a ribbon or string, for a cute reminder. This site also has a blessings tree with printable circles to glue on daily.
- Perhaps you’d prefer to make a gratitude peacock or mandala. Both black and white and colour versions are available as free printables at plantlovegrow.
- Allison Kimball at a simple inspiration has cute little cards to make gratitude lists or just write more details about one item each day.
I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you’re joining in, either here or on my Ordinarily Extraordinary Anna Facebook page. Share your progress and post photos to social media with #april18gratitudechallenge or #ordinarilyextraordinaryanna , so I can see them but more importantly, to encourage others. I can’t wait to hear what you are doing to express gratitude this April.
Thankyou in advance for sharing and becoming part of the Ordinarily Extraordinary Anna community.