Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Gratitude
By Charlotte Terrell, Talent Management Specialist and Past President of The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (2003-2004)
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James
This year has been one like no other. It started as most do with celebrations of a new year and the innumberable possibilities that await. Then COVID-19 happened, and we didn’t have a clear idea of what tomorrow would bring much less the year’s remainder. As days of sheltering in place turned into weeks and months, social distancing became the norm instead of the casual interactions with friends and neighbors. With the darker days of winter and the holiday season approaching, those that are suffering from the mental effects from the pandemic may find their feelings amplified even more than an ordinary year.
As seasons change, our adaptation must as well and one reslient way to adapt is through gratitude.
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Harvard Mental Health Newsletter Updated: June 5, 2019, published: November 2011)
So what is gratitude? It is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude can be freely given and lifts both the giver and the recipient. It can be as simple as saying thank you to the clerks at the grocery store or your family for helping around the house. There is no need for elaborate gestures to show appreciation.
In expressing gratitude, being specific makes it more meaningful; therefore, try making it personal. Would the recipient like it tweeted out for all the world to see, or would they like a private moment of emotional connection? Either way, think about the delivery as much as the message.
As we begin bringing this year to a close, here are some simple ways to express gratitude:
Write a thank-you note. Given that electronic communication is now the norm, it’s a nice surprise to find a handwritten note in the mailbox among the bills and flyers. It doesn’t need to be a long letter or on a personal correspondence card. Just a quick note on a postcard can be enough. “Jane, I truly appreciated your help with John’s homework yesterday. I couldn’t have gotten through it without you.”
Recognize them on social media. Are they a social media enthusiast? If this is someone whose life includes regular posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, they would probably appreciate a callout on their favorite platform. Extra points if you have a photo or image to accompany it. “David, you make the best beef stew on the planet. I appreciate you sharing it with me.”
Plan time at virtual meetings to acknowledge team members. During work or volunteer meetings, build in a few minutes for everyone on the team to recognize someone else for their contributions. It can be as simple as thanking Sam for organizing the meeting and setting the agenda, or as elaborate as nominating Camille for a “hero award,” filling in at the last minute for a speaker who had to cancel. It builds up the team and the individuals.
Call them simply to say “hello.” After so much screen time, it can be a welcome change to talk on the phone with someone. In the noise of everything around us, a chat just to say that you are thinking of someone and how their friendship has made your life better.
Don’t forget your family. Whether it’s just spouse, roommates, children, or some combination of these, living with family can be challenging under normal circumstances. Taking a moment to thank your husband for taking out the trash or your daughter for emptying the dishwasher is a small gesture that can reap rewards for everyone. Even though these chores are part of daily responsibilities, it does matter that it is noticed.
For yourself, start a gratitude journal. It can be a special book or a random notebook, but take a little time every day to write down the things that you appreciate. Sunshine after days of rain, quiet when the children are finally asleep, or the gift of being able to work from home.
Look around; there are simple gifts everywhere.