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Why You Should Say These Five "Thank You's" Everyday

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

What if you went about your life saying “thank you, thank you” to everything and every person and every situation you encountered?

When renowned poet Mary Oliver was asked, “What is spirituality?” that was how she responded. This is pure wisdom. What an insightful way to build gratitude, to be authentically strengths-based, and to pursue the sacred of the present moment.

Let’s take a page out of this idea. Here I offer you five thank-yous to do today, tomorrow and any day of your life.

1. Thank you, nature.

Wherever you are, there is something in nature to hear, see, and appreciate. It might be the sun, the wind, trees, mountains, a flock of birds, a backyard pond, or one caterpillar. Pausing to give thanks to one element in nature allows you to connect with life outside of yourself, not to mention nature offers a boost to well-being.

2. Thank you, people who offend me.

There’s a good chance you’ll disagree with someone or become upset by something someone says during the holidays. It’s easy to be reactive and to argue back. It’s tough to mindfully breathe, speak with care, and let it go. It’s even tougher to say “thank you” to them. But why shouldn’t we thank someone who offers a different viewpoint? Doesn’t this challenge us to be better? Doesn’t it offer us new opportunities to use our strengths, such as curiosity toward a new perspective and critical thinking to examine the pros and cons of the opinion? Using our strengths in this way helps us grow. Imagine yourself saying thank you in such a scenario. What would happen if you did?

3. Thank you, my loved ones.

This seems like an obvious one, but what is less obvious, and something few people do, is to offer depth to the gratitude. Rather than, “Thank you, mom,” or “I’m happy you’re my friend. Thank you,” offer a specific example and rationale for why you appreciate the person. You might say, “Thank you, Dad, for being there for me after I broke up with my boyfriend. You have always been caring and supportive of me when I’m down, and I so appreciate that.”

4. Thank you, my body and mind.

There’s plenty of gratitude to be pushed out to others and the world. What about yourself? (Intrapersonal gratitude.) Give thanks to your body, your mind, and your spirit. You might reply that you have an illness, or that your body is breaking down. Isn’t that a time to be even more grateful — to appreciate the vitality that exists within your body and mind? As spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh observes, this present moment is a wonderful one, because it’s another moment you’re alive. You can smile. You can connect. And you can appreciate yourself.

5. Thank you, toothbrush.

We take our routines for granted — brushing teeth, washing our body, walking down steps, eating breakfast, driving to work. We are creatures of habit, and these routines keep us sane. They sustain us, give our mind mini-relaxation periods, and provide us with a sense of comfort and normalcy. That doesn’t mean we can’t stand to be a bit more mindful of what we are doing. Saying “thank you” to your toothbrush deepens your appreciation of health habits and also breaks you out of your autopilot trance during the day.

Offer these five thank-yous aloud, and you’ll be expanding and boosting your gratitude. Express them each day, and you will boost your happiness.

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Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character strengths interventions: A field-guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.