November is upon us and it is the time of year to think of all that we’re thankful for. It is a lovely exercise to make a list, or simply let your mind wander as you think about all the people that make your life better in some way. Friends, family, and even acquaintances like our favorite barista, cashier, or hair stylist are important when it comes to our own personal happiness. How do you go about showing these folks that you appreciate them? It’s all about going beyond the thank you note.
Thankfulness can be expressed in many ways. But first, we must be on the lookout for people to thank. How do we decide who to show our thanks to first? Look no farther than Facebook. What are your friends up to? Friend #1 just finished her last exam of the semester and is excited to be on a break from classes. How exciting! I am sure she would love a surprise celebratory Starbucks drink. Friend #2 is homebound for a few days attempting to potty train the toddler. Maybe she would enjoy a magazine and a quick hello as you pass through her neighborhood. Friend #3 got into a fender bender AND her washing machine broke in the same week. This one calls for a bottle of wine. Sometimes the collective noise of Facebook makes it difficult to see individual messages. You must take your time and look for them, but they are there.
Social media is a terrific way to stay in the loop, but don’t forget about the people you encounter in the real world. Sometimes we move through life so quickly, we fail to see opportunities to show how thankful we are. Keep your ears and eyes open as you drop your kids off at school, or while you are at work, the gym, or even the grocery store. Is there someone that you are thankful for, that is going through a challenging time? Whether celebrating or mourning or even just because, it is always nice to receive an unexpected happiness boost. Showing kindness to others boosts our own happiness as well. So be on the lookout for opportunities to show your thankfulness as you go about your day.
Thankfulness can be expressed in many ways. One of the simplest is a thank you note or, in today’s world, a thank you text or e-mail. If you are especially tech-savvy (or are under the age of 25) you probably include a bitmoji in your text message, or better yet, you just use snap chat to send a quick picture of yourself with ‘Thanks’ typed underneath. I may just be old-fashioned, but a 10-second disappearing thank you note doesn’t always cut it. While it might brighten someone’s day for a moment, there are many lasting, more creative ways we can say ‘thanks’. But first, we must be on the lookout for people to thank.
Traditionally, thank you notes are sent when a person receives a gift. Or perhaps when someone has gone above and beyond the call of duty. There is nothing wrong with the traditional setup, but I think thanking people should be expanded. Sometimes, a more unexpected gesture of kindness is appropriate. Sure, send a thank you note when someone gets you a gift, but also look for ways to show kindness, or show that you are thankful for someone in other ways. If you really think about it, there are opportunities to show how thankful you are, even in small ways to the people that we care about, all the time.
You can also show kindness to people you don’t know that well, but whom you still appreciate. This summer, I needed to get my oil changed. It was so hot. I was sweltering as I sat in the car with no air conditioning for just a few minutes. That made me think about the technicians working on the cars that spend all day in those conditions. I always appreciate the job they do when changing my oil, but I was extra thankful that day because of the heat. So, the next day, I purchased a dozen Frosties from Wendy’s and took them to the hard-working technicians at the oil change place. They were so thankful and it made me feel good to add a little happiness to their day.
Take these principles out of November and into the new year. I challenge you to go ‘beyond the thank you note’ when thinking about how to show your appreciation to the people in your life.