Expressing Gratitude

Nov 21, 2022
expressing gratitude

It's hard to believe that it's already Thanksgiving! Maybe it's just me, but time seems to be flying by faster and faster this year.

I tend to be non-traditional with holidays. Who I spend them with and how I honor them varies year to year, but Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorites. I associate it with good people, good food, and lots of laughter. And I love that the underlying spirit of the day is all about coming together and being grateful. 

My most treasured Thanksgiving to date was about 8ish years ago. I had planned to be with my family, which meant meeting up at my grandparents' in Dallas, but my dad had to have a sudden major surgery, landing him in the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.

My partner and I headed to Arkansas instead to be with my mom and dad. We stayed in a little hotel nearby that was dedicated to housing the family members and loved ones of sick souls getting care in the hospital.

It started out as a pretty Thanksgiving. My dad could've died. I was glad to be with him, but hanging out in the hospital wasn't exactly fun. I missed my grandparents and my brother...and my grandmother's cornbread dressing.

Then something magical happened.

The hotel owners and staff put on a Thanksgiving for the tenants. They set up big tables in the lobby and brought in home-cooked foods. Everyone arrived in the lobby at the designated time and grabbed a seat. There were enough seats for everyone but not separate tables. It was a little awkward as everyone looked around realizing that we'd have to sit with strangers.

Someone said grace then we got food. As we began to eat, the conversations began. Tentative at first, then flowing easily by the end. We started out as strangers who didn't want to be there, connected only by the shared experience of worrying about a loved one. As we shared a meal, we began to bond. We offered each other kind words of reassurance - your loved one will be ok - and told funny stories. We softly and humbly agreed that this Thanksgiving was overwhelmingly beautiful, that it touched a place in our hearts (wow - I still get teary thinking about it). Those hotel staff took the time to gift us a warm, magical moment in what was an otherwise dark and dreary time. I felt a true sense of family in that hotel lobby, thanks to a group of people I had never met and haven't seen since. It's hard to adequately express what they did and how it made an impact. 

But it's worth a try.


Expressing Gratitude

So many people, even people we barely know or interact with only in passing, leave a mark on us. I've had uber drivers make a lasting impression, a friend of a friend say something that makes my day, people I've only just heard about inspire me to do better. Who's had a positive impact on you? 

This Thanksgiving, amongst the hustle and bustle of the holiday, take a few minutes to not only tap into gratitude more generally but to really connect with gratitude for the people who have made an impression in your life in some way. 

Gratitude is one of my favorite things from positive psychology. It's a beautiful way to counteract our brain's natural negativity bias, its tendency to focus on the problems or what is wrong. Gratitude means focusing on what's right. 

This year, rather than making gratitude a private exercise, I challenge you to focus on expressing it. In a modern (read that as quick and easy, thanks to technology) twist on the gratitude visit (where you write someone a letter expressing gratitude about how they've impacted your life and read it to them directly), let's embrace the Tell Them Text practice. 

Go back to those people you thought of who have had a positive impact on your life this year, especially those people you may not see often and those who you haven't outright said "I appreciate you!" to. Send them a text. Tell them that you are grateful for them and why. It's ok to keep it short and sweet. Just send it!

This Tell Them Text will feel good for you as you conjure to mind gratitude and all the warm-fuzzies those memories bring. It'll feel good for them, too. It's always nice to be appreciated, and sometimes being caught off guard by someone reaching out to say thank you is even better. 

I'll go first. 

Thank you for being a part of the Peak Mind community and reading our emails. Knowing that you're out there helps me feel motivated and inspired to write. 

Your turn. Who do you need to send a Tell Them Text to this week?

If you want more gratitude, check out these past posts and episodes:

Happy in 3...2...1

A New Take on Gratitude

A Different Take on Gratitude This Year

Gratitude v. Toxic Positivity


"At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
- Albert Schweitzer


Written by Dr. Ashley Smith

Peak Mind Co-founder

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