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The Power of Thank You

Last week, I wrote about the importance of Gratitude and Glimmers, and I explained that it takes a bit of time and practice to change our focus away from the negative to the positive. One very good way to do that is to be intentional in thanking others. Saying thank you is a polite expression of appreciation, and it connotes good manners, but unlike other phrases in the English language, it does not lose its power with repetition.

Most people recognize the need to thank someone when they receive a gift, for example at Christmas, birthdays, or weddings, but saying thank you should not just be reserved for special occasions. When someone does something to make our day a little easier or happier it should trigger a “glimmer,” which is a perfect opportunity to express thanks. When we say thank you, it generally boosts the self-esteem of the receiver; they feel appreciated, needed, and valued. Research also indicates that being grateful has health benefits on the giver; in fact, it is one of the easiest things to do to improve mental health. Saying thank you keeps us humble, it helps us fully appreciate our blessings, and it makes us feel more optimistic. Further, people who witness the exchange are uplifted as well. Sara Algoe, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noticed a ripple effect among people who witnessed an act of gratitude. “When people witness an expression of gratitude, they see that the grateful person is the kind of person who notices when other people do kind things and actually takes time to acknowledge them.” She goes on to say, “It’s helpful to know who the people in our environment are who will do nice things for other people.” In addition, it precipitates a chain reaction – the person who witnesses the act is likely to pay it forward.

Children at a very early age, as soon as they begin learning to speak, can begin to add thank you to their vocabulary. Parents should regularly model saying thank you so children learn its importance. It is also prudent to teach siblings to extend a thank you to one another in everyday routines (this may be a little contrived at first); they can then begin to extend the expression to other family members and friends. Through practice, we become more comfortable in saying thank you to others, and what begins as a rote habit eventually becomes a genuine and heartfelt expression. Writing thank you notes, a practice that has diminished in the computer age, is also significant. While a text or an email is also valuable, taking the time to hand-write a note, put a stamp on it, and mail it, has long-lasting value. Jackie Kennedy, wife of John Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was well known for her heartfelt thank you notes. Those messages are still treasured today by the recipients. This practice should be reestablished, so consider having your children send thank you notes to grandparents or relatives in different states or countries because the benefits are immeasurable. As a grandparent, I can attest to this!

Below is a short video from a fifth-grade student at St. Andrew’s School in Florida about the importance of saying thank you. Perhaps your children will find her "Ted Talk" enjoyable and beneficial.

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