Being grateful is not easy. In fact, the term grateful itself makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of the awkwardness of having to recite all the good in your life, in front of your class. The term is uncomfortable, often associated with the deeply religious or deeply free spirited. I am neither of these things and finding a middle ground, reclaiming the experience of gratefulness and feeling it’s benefits did not come easily to me.

These experiences are definitely my own and I am not suggesting that being religious or free spirited is good or bad. It is, however, difficult to figure out how it applies to you if you do not identify with a category your action is mostly associated with. So, where does this leave you? How can you be grateful if, like me, you’re usually a pretty grumpy, gloomy and negative person?

How to start being grateful

Following on from some of the research I did into gratitude (thanks Amit!), it has been suggested that individuals can improve their attitude and encourage their feelings of gratitude.

“Increasing focus on the link between mind and body can encourage feelings of gratitude”

– Bono and McCullough (2006)

There are lots of ways to share gratitude and experience the benefits. Even if you’re not at the stage of wanting to share all that you love with the world around you, you can still experience the benefits.

How to be grateful

Gratitude and Thinking

Thinking of grateful events has a bigger impact than when you write them down. It’s suspected that this is because when we write them down we are forcing ourselves to be grateful in a moment that may not be conducive to the act. Thinking can be done at any time and mindful thinking can help you experience really positive feedback as the thought occurs rather than stocking it up for later. Eamons & McCullough (2003).

What should I be grateful for?

People often think that they need to be grateful for actions of another person but it’s been found by Wood, Joseph and Linley that those that find gratitude easiest are more likely to involved a wider range of people and events. Such as:

  • Being grateful for being able to see a sunrise
  • Being grateful that you met your partner
  • Being grateful for the love of your partner
  • Being grateful that your church leader makes the weekly sermons relevant and engaging

Gratitude and writing

Writing is an incredibly rewarding way of expressing gratitude. Although it has not been found as effective as just thought, writing is still a useful tool. Unlike thoughts, written word is available for those days that you require a boost in your mood or any ailment

What other ways can you express gratitude? What works for you?

Bono, G. and McCullough, M., (2006) Positive responses to benefit and harm: bringing forgiveness and gratitude into cognitive psychotherapy, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

I love writing cards and letters but knowing where to start can be really difficult, even for those who love words.

Embarrassingly, it took 6 months to post out our thank you letters following our wedding. Dreadful etiquette, I know. Really bad. Some of that guilt lifted when I realised many people don’t even send a thank you tweet let alone a card after their big day, but I digress.

Thank you notes are important. Whether they are sent verbally, through Facebook or through the mail, saying thank you is what makes the world a nicer place to live in and it makes you feel better.

Verbal Gratitude

This is, hands down, the best way to say thanks. It is fraught with awkwardness and the necessity of showing sincerity, two things that are not easy to do.

To sincerely thank someone in person, or, by stretching it, over Skype or Face Time, just remember these simple rules:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Be sincere. Don’t make jokes or diminish the gratitude. If you must joke, save it until the end.
  3. Start by saying that you’re grateful/thankful/incredibly happy for XY and Z. Express how it made a difference, why you enjoyed the act and how much the gift meant to you.

For example:

“I am really grateful that you spent last night talking with me after my break up with So-and-So, it meant a lot to me knowing that I still had a great friend.”

“I love you for cleaning the house on your day off, it means so much that you cleaned the areas I hate and that you did this for me! Thank you.”

“Thank you very much for the wonderful wedding gift. It is the perfect, as Husband and I had decided to become healthier before the wedding. Your juicer will definitely make it easier to consume all those exotic fruits that we’re not sure what to do with”

Hand Written Gratitude

Writing a thank you card or letter is really awesome. Especially if it has to go through good old fashioned snail mail. There’s something delightful about receiving mail thats only purpose is to iterate how fabulous you are.

I have a tendency to be incredibly flowery when I write thank you cards, ask any one of my friends anywhere and it is likely they will have received note cards with both inside pages filled with squished writing and gushing words of love. Sometimes, there are drawings. When I feel particularly creative, I will limit words and just make little people express my intention through stick figure dance.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a thank you card, although I would leave the more wordy and elaborate ones for close friends and family.

As a general rule, follow the formula below.

Thank you for + specific action / item + what impact it has on your life / how you will use it

A written card has more impact if its sole purpose is to convey thanks, so leave out the updates, further requests for money and gossip. Just write thank you.

If you want your card to be a little fuller and more ‘robust’, you could elaborate in my detail, focusing on feeling and expressing sincerity.

“Thank you for your friendship over these past years. It is amazing to me that even though we are literally thousands of miles away, you and I have maintained a strong relationship. I know that often we go weeks, and sometimes months, without talking to each other but it always feels as though no time passed at all. You are truly wonderful etc. etc.”

Electronic Gratitude

Ok, so I debated putting this one in. Does saying thank you electronically even count as anything?

I’d like to think it does. Although it’s definitely not conventional and doesn’t have the impact of a handwritten note or verbal expression of thanks, it’s still good for reconnecting, reaffirming gratefulness and connecting with those who you are close with to those who you’ve just met.

Sending a thank you message through any electronic medium is really very easy and should be used as a minimum.

Choose your format properly. E-mail is a safe bet generally, but you could use Facebook/Twitter etc.

E-mail allows you take anything from an informal to formal approach, whereas Facebook and Twitter do mean that some informality is expected. Don’t send anything important via social media, saying thank you for your job interview through FB just sends a bad message. Don’t do it. Just send the physical thank you note card and skip electronic altogether.

What are your go to thank you guidelines? Which way do you prefer to express thanks?

I have been working away like a fiend on my Etsy shop and it is now officially ready for Christmas and holiday business.

With these brand new features:

Now you can buy all your favourite cards from the lemon hive for even less! Each card is an original, hand painted or hand drawn notecard. These are not prints! They double up as art and look fabulous in a frame and they are individual. As unique as you and the recipient. Basically, they are a gift in themselves.

Why did I start creating hand painted cards?

Having moved to Canada and having left all of my friends and family behind me, I was finding it difficult to afford sending them gifts all the time. It wasn’t the gift itself but more the postage costs. I wanted to give them something they could frame, that would bring them joy when they picked it up at the post office or when it landed in their letterbox. It was frustrating not knowing where to start. So, eventually, I started making my own cards. Writing great words in them and expressing my gratitude for their continued existence in my life and for their friendship and love.

I received wonderful feedback about these cards. They became my go to for letting my loved ones know that I still missed them even if I couldn’t afford to send large fancy parcels of maple syrup.

I started working on my art technique and dabbling in different styles and it’s fair to say that now I definitely have a rhythm and a definitive style.

What makes the Lemon Hive Etsy Shop special?

Customisation. I will tweak, add to, make and design cards for you. I just completed a 130 Christmas card order for a bride in London. She wanted to have greetings cards at her reception that doubled up as place cards. It was a brilliant experience and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in action.

I put customer service as a priority, with a 10 day turn around. It was intense but she received the cards within 2 weeks of ordering them.

Writing the cards is another service I offer. I am very mushy gushy by nature but I know this isn’t for everyone and it can be difficult to think of the write words (see what I did there? right/write?). I  am happy to chat with you about the recipient and pop it all into the card, posting directly to the person you miss. It saves you an extra postage cost and makes for a really awesome experience for the person receiving it.

How has been an expat affected your take on notecards?

I must admit, I didn’t really ‘do’ notecards before moving. Then my friends started sending me beautifully written notes and postcards. It was then that I realised I genuinely looked forward to ‘just because’ mail. I started decorating my envelopes and writing beautiful sentiments. I never throw a card away. They are all here in a, once little but now big, box in my office. Every now and then I look through them.

Expressing gratitude and greetings cards

Recently, I’ve been talking a lot about gratitude, what it can do for you and what it is. For those who are familiar with the 5 love languages, mine is words of affirmation. I like to express my love for others through telling them what they mean to me and why I think they’re fabulous. Being able to put this in something pretty and offer them a gift at the same time is part of what makes The Lemon Hive store so special. I want to broach that gap and be able to offer a great gift regardless of cost.

They’re also a great choice for secret santa gifts and they pair up nicely with a bottle of wine!

What Can Gratitude Do For You?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been discussing gratitude and it’s importance in my life. This week I’m going to talk about the health benefits that come from assessing the things for which you are thankful.

Last weeks post looked at the definition of gratitude and what it means to you. So many people got involved with exploring what the term meant to them. With others questioning where research was lacking. It was fascinating and I was deeply touched that so many people wanted to comment on what gratitude meant.

Once you’ve established what gratitude means to you, it’s time to look at what gratitude can do for you.

Benefits of Gratitude

Expressing gratitude has been shown to contribute to improvement in mental and physical health, which is definitely no small feat. This happens in a variety of ways but Amit of Happier Human has developed this brilliant diagram that perfectly sums up what gratitude does for your health.

Source: Amit from Happier Human

As you can see, gratitude has a direct impact on many areas of our lives, so much so that it is difficult to just remove one from the other and it becomes a bit of a cycle. Amit goes into further detail on his blog post about how and why these things occur.

Gratitude and the impact on our social lives

McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons and Darson (2001) stated that gratitude lead to a better society because the act alone was expected to lead to other beneficial behaviours. The expectation stemmed from the belief that gratitude was the ultimate expression of kindness and by acting upon those feelings you were being kind to yourself, other individuals and society as a whole. These were the people who believed that gratitude could be defined as a feeling of indebtedness and, as such, they believed that expressing gratitude entered you into a cycle of gratitude demonstrations. Sounds convoluted but it isn’t … stay with me!

They went on to say that those who were recipients of sincere expressions of gratitude were more likely to behave prosocially to a third party, thus spreading the kindness among society. Basically, one simple act of gratitude on twitter could lead to an entirely contented social circle.

Eamons and McCullough (2003) elaborated on this, stating that daily demonstrations of gratitude were positively correlated with improved relationships, both platonic and romantic.

Expressing gratitude can only do positive things for your relationship with others. It’s a reasonable expectation that saying thank you in a sincere manner will reinforce friendships, leaving the recipient validated for their efforts and further developing the relationship.

Gratitude and mood

Gratitude has all kinds of impact on mood. Emmons and Crumpler (2000, as cited in McCullough et al., 2001) found that a gratitude intervention improved not only short term mood but also physical functioning, which means that the next time you feel a bit down in the dumps or a bit achey, taking the time out to be grateful for something could help you experience your emotions and physical ailments differently.


McCullough et al. (2001) also found that gratitude was linked to better social circles and a reduction in narcassism. With better social circles comes better mental health, the research connecting social circles with reduced rates of depression is extensive. 


The expression of gratitude is linked to many other emotions. Research by Eamons & McCullough (2003) found that the emotion was linked to feelings of happiness, pride, contentment and hope, and when further defined by participants it was clustered with feelings of admiration, respect, trust and regard. This leans back into definition territory, I know, but it also means that gratitude as a feeling is also linked closely to other positive feelings. I’m hopeful that in time research will show that gratitude will trigger those other emotions into being. Fake it till you make it, right?


The expression of gratitude is the only emotion correlated positively with life satisfaction. This is no small feat because other emotions and factors such as intelligence, forgiveness, and humour have failed to predict how satisfied we are with our lives! (Wood, Joseph and Linley).


Wood et al. went on to say that people who express more gratitude are more likely to have lower levels of stress and depression and more likely to see the world as a pleasant place, leading to a larger willingness to help. Good news all around!

Gratitude and Health

Eamons and McCullough (2003) discovered that gratitude expressed once a week was shown to correlate with increased exercise, more positivity and less physical complaints. When students were required to write in their journals daily they found that their emotional states and sleep quality improved as well. Brilliant, right?!


Wood et al. also discovered that expressions of gratitude could reduce systolic blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. This is linked greatly to next month’s post, where we’ll discuss how to express gratitude in a manner that works for you, a key component involves making connections between the mind and the body. I’m going to start looking into the benefits that showing and expressing gratitude can have on your health and general well being.


What do you think? Does this sum up gratitude to you? Are there any other health benefits that you gain from expressing your gratefulness?



Next Month

It’s difficult to talk about this subject without seeming religious, as I am not religious this image is something I avoid. Gratitude seems to have been labelled as something only for those who are religious but this couldn’t be further away from the truth. The act of gratitude has benefits for anyone and, if you are someone who believes in a higher power, it may mean that you are familiar with ways of expressing it that work for you. 

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal

RULES FOR THIS LINKUP

1. Write a post and/or comment about gratitude. (The link you submit to the linkup must be the actual post’s URL and not just your homepage or it’ll be removed.)

2. This linkup is also about support and community, so read and comment on at least one other person’s post about gratitude. 🙂

3. Link back to this project in your post. Feel free to use the little button above or upload one of your own!

This project is now a monthly event

References:

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., and Emmons, R.A., Darson, D.B., (2001), Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 2, 249-266.

The art of gratitude and being grateful can be hard. In some cultures, it can feel awkward and cumbersome to express little tidbits of thankfulness and grace. However, it’s a worthwhile challenge to do and the benefits of showing gratitude, appreciation and admiration are immense.

Firstly, Erika at Chimerikal started a fun little link-up about gratitude and I decided to play ball. I blogged last week about Thanksgiving and how grateful I was for all the love in my life. Instead of waxing lyrical about how wonderful my life is, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what gratitude is.

I did some research last week and found a brilliant blog by Amit. Amit of Happier Human has done all sorts of research into gratitude and it’s health benefits. He has written numerous blog articles and reviewed individual journal articles. As a psychology graduate, I liked this A LOT. Firstly, because I am geeky and secondly, because I wanted to provide you with real, solid information.

Relatively speaking there hasn’t been a lot of research into gratitude, don’t get me wrong, there’s still loads out there but if you compared it to research on memory, gratitude is definitely left lacking.

So before I dive into all the good parts of what gratitude can do for you, I thought it best to have a think about what it means to be grateful.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is experienced culturally but it is expressed throughout the world with many societies finding cultural and linguistic methods for showing it (McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons and Darson et al., 2001). The feeling of gratitude is defined in multiple ways and there really isn’t a single way to describe it as it is.

It’s a super hard feeling to define but it has been described as a mix of joy and admiration. Research has found heavy links between the gratitude and feelings of happiness, pride, contentment, hope, trust and regard (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

Some (Brown & Levison, 1987, as cited in McCullough et al., 2001) believe that gratitude is anything from a state of feeling indebted or socially obligated to another individual because of a kind act to an expression of politeness.

I’m not so sure I like these definitions because, for me, gratitude isn’t about ‘owing’ someone a favour, so I was happy to find that Emmons and McCullough (2003), stated that gratitude focused more on the perception of the individual focusing on a positive personal outcome. The positive outcome was not necessarily deserved but it had happened anyway. They went on to say that the outcome had to have been brought about by another person, which, in my experience, isn’t always true. Wood, Joseph and Linley (2008) obviously think in a similar manner to me, stating that those who expressed gratitude and were happiest often involved a wider range of people and events, including God, sunrises, sunsets, weddings and good memories for which to be grateful for.


Why is gratitude important?

Well, gratitude is something that makes up massive parts of many cultures, with major religions espousing the necessity of gratitude and the act of being grateful. It plays a big role in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddist and Hindu thought, to name but a few.

In fact, gratitude is such a revered feeling in society that to be accused of ‘ingratitude’ is a great offense and a big indication of moral failure. This is a universally powerful accusation (McCullough et al., 2001) and means that gratitude has more importance within society than we generally acknowledge.

For me, gratitude is important for my own journey as a person, but it has greater benefits for society, with research showing that gratitude promotes the use of kindness to oneself, other people and society. Overall, gratitude can help the world run smoother and assist in making relationships better.

Next week:

I’m going to start looking into the benefits that showing and expressing gratitude can have on your health and general well being.

What do you think? Does this sum up gratitude to you?

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal

RULES FOR THIS LINKUP

1. Write a post and/or comment about gratitude. (The link you submit to the linkup must be the actual post’s URL and not just your homepage or it’ll be removed.)

2. This linkup is also about support and community, so read and comment on at least one other person’s post about gratitude. 🙂

3. Link back to this project in your post. Feel free to use the little button above or upload one of your own!

References:

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

McCullough, M.E., Kilpatrick, S.D., and Emmons, R.A., Darson, D.B., (2001), Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 2, 249-266.