I’m a big believer in saying thank you, but not just for a birthday gift or a recent evening at someone’s home. I also love saying thank you for things that happened years ago that still have an impact on my life.
I call this practice “re-thanking,” and it’s appropriate in many situations. Did you have a neighbor who was especially kind to you when you were a child? Write her a note and say how much she meant to you. Did your parents pay for your college education? Tell them you still appreciate that invaluable gift long after you’ve graduated.
Re-thanking pays big dividends for both parties involved in the process. The givers focus their energies on positive people and events in their lives. They recall pleasant memories and bask in the feel-good moments they elicit.
Research shows that folks who express gratitude are physically healthier. According to Dr. Bill Steward with the California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute for Health and Healing, gratitude counters such destructive emotions as anxiety and depression. People sleep better. They’re more active.
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Scientists at UC Davis found that those who were the most grateful reported fewer physical symptoms, felt more positive and expressed more optimism than less grateful people. They were more likely to make progress toward important goals. They felt more alert, enthusiastic, determined and attentive and were less likely to dwell on personal or social problems.
Re-thankers are more apt to experience positive relationships with their families. Attentions are drawn away from the inevitable problems and disappointments associated with growing up and directed toward beneficial interactions. Even when households struggle with pathology and serious threats to their abilities to function, they all have some moments of success. Applauding these isolated triumphs allows members to honor what went right instead of constantly harping on familial pitfalls.
Recipients of re-thanking are equally blessed. They feel appreciated and cherished by your words and sentiments. Mood is immediately elevated. They enjoy learning that they’ve been beneficial. Personal bonds between the two of you are strengthened. And with the slightest effort on your part, you’ve brought a sparkle into their day.
What can you re-thank someone for? The answers are as diverse as the autumn leaves that keep blanketing your lawn. Start the process by recalling pleasant moments in your past. Then identify the person most responsible for making it happen. That’s the first one you can re-thank. If that individual is no longer living, you can contact a relative and say, “I just wanted you to know how much I loved being on your dad’s baseball team.”
Once you get the thankful juices flowing it’s easy to think up new names. You don’t have to thank them all at once. But you might make it a goal to contact five within the next month. From there you can continue to expand your sense of appreciation, like a chain letter branching out each time it’s sent.
Any method of contact will do, whether it’s in person, a postcard, a phone call or an e-mail. The main thing is to reach out and thank someone who’s been a good influence. Everyone’s grateful for that.
Tips for Re-thanking
When expressing gratitude, keep these principles in mind.
Be sincere. Gratitude is no place for deceit. You’re either appreciative or you’re not. Discover those items for which you are truly thankful, then convey your fond sentiments to those who matter.
Be specific. Name the actual event or action that brought you joy. Your gratitude will seem more real. The recipients will be able to recall more clearly what they did.
Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard. Being overly dramatic or complex only dilutes what you want to say.
Keep your message short. A brief “I still use that lovely pitcher you gave me as a wedding present” gets the job done.
Be sweet. This isn’t the time for sarcasm, jokes or witticisms. Use your more pleasant, appreciative tone to express the depth of how you feel.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com