As soon as we are old enough to speak our parents teach us to say thank you. We learn to say thank you for the gifts we receive, thank you to someone who does us a favour, and thank you for the food on our plates every day. And we are taught to say thank you for good reason. It can brighten someone’s day, and knowing that we have brightened someone’s day can brighten our own. It also teaches us not to feel entitled and to appreciate what we have. Saying thank you is incredibly important for all of these reasons and many more. But what I’ve recently learned is that the act of saying thank you, or rather the expression of gratitude, is a powerful stress reliever. And not just for the person receiving it. I believe that gratitude`s greatest effect is on its giver.
I’d like to share with you a recent experience of mine that has deepened my understanding and belief in the power of expressing gratitude.
I have been going to Will Blunderfield’s yoga class at Westcoast Hot Yoga fairly regularly for a couple of months now. Will’s passion and enthusiasm for life, and his practice of self love and acceptance has been a crucial support in this process of change that I am going through. Will is also an amazing musician, and singer song-writer, and his journey has inspired me to follow my heart and do what makes me tick. (If anyone is interested in being inspired and learning the valuable art of self-acceptance, I totally recommend attending his yoga class or checking out his music – www.willblunderfield.com!!)
I knew in my heart the benefit his class was having on my life, but I was never quite able to bring myself to talk to him after class and thank him personally. I think I was mostly afraid of saying thank you as that would mean accepting the uncomfortable fact that his class was helping me; which would mean accepting the even more uncomfortable fact that I needed others’ help in the first place. It was a scary thought, admitting that I couldn’t do it on my own.
But I recently managed to do it! (Maybe because he is going to Asia for a month and I knew it would be my last chance for a while… but either way I did it!) I got out a real thank you, a heartfelt one with exposed emotion.
The funny thing is that I thought I was doing it for him. I felt like I wanted him to know how much he was helping me. I hoped I would make his day better by telling him. And I still hope that I did. But what surprised me when I finally expressed my gratitude was the effect it had on me. It was more liberating than I ever imagined. A weight was lifted. I felt lighter. My shoulders weren’t as tight. I felt more relaxed and at peace with myself. And then it hit me - the feeling of gratitude that I had been holding in had been growing into a giant stress-ball! Sounds crazy but its true. When I said thank you in an honest and open way the stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying around just disappeared. Melted away. Gone.
So what I’ve learned is that our parents were right to teach us to say thank you. Saying thank you is incredibly powerful. Or rather, expressing gratitude is incredibly powerful. Its power is not in the words we use, but in the genuineness of the expression. The more often we able to say thank you in meaningful ways the more the burdens we carry around with us begin to lift. So if you feel thankful let yourself feel it! Then go to whoever it is that caused you to feel that way and express it!
I hope you will think of someone or something that you are thankful for today and go out into the world and express it. I hope you share a smile with someone when you do; and I hope that when the gratitude is released from your body, a little bit of the stress you feel burdened by today goes out with it too :)