Why Saying “Thanks” Makes You Stronger

Expressing your gratitude as a way to boost your well-being sounds like one of those tired clichés. Count your blessings, and you’ll be happier! Sounds like something my grandmother might have said; sort of trite, and probably not really helpful in a crisis situation.


In actuality, however, expressing gratitude has been scientifically shown to boost your happiness. In many studies, people who regularly said “thank you” to other people, turned out to have a stronger resilience level than people who never acknowledged the help and support they received from others.


There are different ways to express your gratitude, and they all work to give you that happiness boost. You can say thank you right in the moment. You can write a thank you note to someone. Some people choose to journal (thanks to Oprah, that’s a habit that picked up steam several years ago and is still going strong). Journaling, like saying a prayer or a blessing, is a personal acknowledgement of gratitude, meaning you don’t actually even thank another person, you just recognize that you are thankful for the situation. You don’t have to even express your gratitude out loud for it to be a resilience-lifter.


What makes expressing gratitude so magic for your well-being, when it seems like writing thank you notes would be just another chore? Well, for starters, it’s an activity that reminds you that you aren’t alone in the world. Reaching out to say thanks brings it to the forefront of our minds that we’re interconnected with other people, and they happen to be other people who care about us!


Saying thank you also puts you in someone else’s shoes. You are thinking about what it cost them to do something nice to you, and you are thinking about how they would like to hear your express your gratitude. Even writing a thank you note for a gift – I always know who wants to hear me exclaim over how beautiful and special the gift is, and who wants to know all the practical uses I’ll have for it. To do that, I have to put myself in the shoes of the person I’m writing to. And for the moment that I do that, I’m reaching outside of myself, taking on someone else’s perspective, which is GREAT for my resilience.


I got the chance once to thank some people who had been instrumental in my life – my high school invited me back to speak to the graduating class, and several of my former teachers were there. I had almost forgotten, until I saw them face to face, how much it had mattered to have someone care about my life who WASN’T my mom or my best friend. These teachers didn’t have any stake in my going on to be successful or happy, they just wanted me to do so because they believed in me. It felt amazing to say thank you to them for supporting me, especially when I was an ungrateful teenager who didn’t even realize at the time how much they were doing to help me build my future.


Whether you say it out loud or just think it in your head, remember all the ways you are grateful this week. Having that gratitude attitude is good for you!