The Strength of giving Thanks
Wheel of Fortune
Last evening my husband and I were watching one of our “Old People” programs, Wheel of Fortune. For
those of you who aren’t familiar with this game show, three contestants on the show take turns
spinning a wheel with dollar amounts and prizes on it. When the wheel stops turning, the player calls a
letter to help solve the word puzzle presented to them. On this particular show, the player was spinning
and calling letters. He had called all, but two or three letters needed to solve the puzzle, but then he
spun a “lose your turn”. Of course, the next contestant spun the wheel and easily solved the puzzle,
winning that round.
Each time I watch this game and see a player reap the benefits of the prior player, I think to myself
“that’s not fair, the other person did all the work, and they don’t get the prize!” In the first place, it’s not
a team game. So, Kudos to the next player who scoops up all the points earned by others.
But last night watching the game I heard the lucky player who was the benefactor of the prior players
work, thanked them. “Thanks to you guys and all your hard work!”, she said. She actually acknowledged
the part the other contestants had on her success. Somehow, hearing her acknowledge the others for
the input they had on her winning that round was not only a surprise to hear it, but made me think of all
the little things we take for granted in our lives.
Gratitude is the most changeable character strength
As I grow older, I’m recognizing more of the things that give me the feeling of gratitude. Not just the big
stuff like being grateful the tornado “went around us”, but for the smaller stuff too. Things like, all of
the traffic lights turning green just for me on the morning I’m running late. Or the “you’re my Hot Fox”
sticky note left by my husband.
“Gratitude is the most changeable character strength because it’s about mindfulness, something anyone
can do,” says Giacomo Bono, an adjunct professor of psychology at California State University,
Dominguez Hills. Studies show that genetics can account for half of our happiness level, the other half is
under our control, everyday! Emmons goes on to promise, “The benefits can be almost immediate”.
According to some research, there can be long-term health payoffs. Lower blood pressure, stronger
immune system, better sleep, and fewer bouts of depression. The reason? Because appreciating life
buffers stress, thus we’re less likely to fall prey to the perils.
Feeling the full benefits of gratitude
In order to get the full benefits of feeling gratitude, you need to express gratitude to others. Not just by
saying “thank you” but taking time to show it. Being more personal and specific about gratitude is more
important than expressing lots of it,” Emmons notes. Example: My husband doesn’t just wash the
laundry, he folds it! He makes it easy for me to say, “thank you”, especially after he texts me the picture
of folded laundry. I am so happy about the folded laundry that for me to stop and get him his favorite
cold Slurpee at the local food mart when it’s 105 degrees, something I truly dislike doing, has now
become a heartfelt “thank you” for his efforts.
Expressing gratitude is key to a strong relationship, says sociologist Arlie Hochschild. Doling out thanks
to all we come in contact with, can become a joy, especially if their response is a smile. It’s hard to
resent your partner, coworker, cashier, or delivery man, if you’re focused on praising them.
So, at this stress filled, too much to do, too little time to do it, no money to do it with, holiday time of
year… feel more joy by simply saying thank you.
Top sources of Gratitude in the U.S.
- Our families
- The freedoms of living in America
- Good Health
- Close Friends
- Ability to practice religion
Source: John Templeton Foundation
Anna Skaggs M.S. LPC