Want to get closer to others? Thank them

When was the last time you thanked a family member or friend for something they did for you? Not just saying, “Thanks”, “Cheers” or “Ta” but really appreciating what they’ve done for you? The people around us are often at the centre of everything we do, so it’s important every once in a while to recognise and appreciate them.

Despite the constant presence of social media in our lives, we struggle to make lasting, meaningful social connections with others. More and more people report feeling lonely, with 9 million of us in the UK often experiencing loneliness. This week’s post explains how the simple act of showing our appreciation for others can help us connect with them, strengthen our relationships and improve our wellbeing.

Showing appreciation, strengthening relationships

Showing how much we appreciate one another can strengthen our familial and romantic relationships, as well as our friendships. When we show our appreciation for each other, it evokes positive feelings about one another. Those who show their partner how much they appreciate them are often more committed and more likely to stay in the relationship. Not only that, we want to know that who we are and what we do matters, so expressing gratitude towards our family and friends can help strengthen the bonds we have with them.

Even though we like to be appreciated, we don’t actually express our appreciation very often. Many of us find it awkward, difficult or believe we’re not very good at it. This may be due to us showing a degree of vulnerability when we truly thank someone. Yet being vulnerable with others can help us develop meaningful relationships with them. Let’s turn that vulnerability into a strength (after all, why is being thankful a weakness?) and foster closer relationships with those around us.

Why is gratitude good for my wellbeing?

There are multiple reasons why appreciating others and feeling grateful are good for our wellbeing, for example:

These are all good reasons to express gratitude – so let’s show our appreciation for those around us and maximise both our and their wellbeing.

Write a thank you letter

This week’s activity is to show your appreciation of someone by writing them a thank you letter. There are multiple ways we can show our gratitude towards others, but making the effort to write a thank you letter can have a longer lasting effect than just saying it.

You may think that a thank you letter won’t make much difference to someone’s life, but you are mistaken. When people were asked to write a thank you letter, showing their appreciation for something someone close to them had done, they thought their letters would appear insincere and make the recipient feel awkward. They greatly underestimated the impact these letters had – many of the recipients said they felt ecstatic and surprised to receive such a letter. These letters took less than five minutes to write.

Our friends and family do so much for us every day that goes unnoticed and we may even take it for granted. Why not spend 15 minutes thinking about something that someone has done for you recently and write them a letter to say how grateful you are? If you’re struggling to think of something, remember even the little things others do can make a positive difference to our lives. For example:

  • Giving you a lift home in their car
  • Taking the time to help you solve a problem such as a difficult homework question or a small home repair
  • Cooking you dinner from scratch after a tough day at work
  • Always being there to listen to what you have to say

It’s up to you how you write your thank you letter, but it will be more meaningful to the recipient if you are specific about what you are grateful for. Explaining why you appreciate them and what they have done, along with the impact it has had on you, will increase their feelings of happiness. Not only that, it will encourage them to continue helping you and others because they know they are appreciated.

There’s no worksheet for this week’s activity – just grab some paper and write that thank you letter.

I would love to hear about your experiences of writing – and receiving – thank you letters. If showing appreciation has had a positive impact on your wellbeing, please do get in touch and share your story 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between weekly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

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