One of my favorite pearls of wisdom belongs to Deepak Chopra, doctor of neuroendocrinology, and self-help guru, and goes like this: “Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given.” Thanks is definitely one of those things. It is an immense positive power that can strengthen bonds between people and transform lives.
In the run-up to this year’s Thanksgiving, let’s think beyond the hearty meal, parade, and sales. Let’s focus on gratitude and giving thanks to the people in our lives who were there for us. Of course, even saying “thank you,” smiling, nodding in approval, hugging, or giving a firm handshake in the moment means a lot. Yet what if this special someone went above and beyond to help you, making you want to do the same for them? Here is what you can do when a simple “thank you” card doesn’t begin to express it.
Capture a memory
Framed photo is a sentimental classic of showing appreciation. Print out and frame a picture with a special meaning and give it as a way of thanks to your recipient. For example, what better way to express gratitude to parents for supporting you through college than by giving them a photo of you all together from your graduation day? Okay, maybe they are not a “picture on the mantelpiece” kind of people. There are so many options! Photo cushions, customized phone cases, personalized jigsaw puzzles, t-shirts with your print – whatever you can imagine. Depending on the occasion and your relationship with the person, it can be a snapshot of you together, a picture of their pet, a photo of a significant place, or a symbol only you two would understand.
Treat them to delicious food
Food is a universal love language, and it’s always a win. Cooking a three-course dinner, preparing their favorite meal, or baking a cake says “thank you” as nothing else can. If you want to thank a group of people, a tray of cookies or cupcakes is a very sweet (pun intended) gesture. Get creative and customize your baked goods with words of thanks or just smiley faces. If you are not a master chef, you can just order the goodies from a bakery. They decorate cakes, muffins, and cookies with customized prints made of edible colorings, so even a photo can appear on top of your gratitude gift. For a healthier option, you can choose a fruit basket or an assorted box of dried fruits and nuts with a thank-you card.
Return the favor
Thank them for help by offering some support in return. If in response to your “Will you write my essay for me cheap?” they wrote it gratis, help them out with a subject they struggle with or take them out for a meal so they could have a lovely evening away from the books. If they are a parent, offer them to babysit their kid for a day – they could use this time. If they are your roommate, do chores instead of them. If they are stressed out, teach them your favorite meditation technique, or create a playlist with relaxing music. If they are overwhelmed, do their grocery shopping or offer them a lift home. Tap into your strong sides and see what you can contribute to making their life more comfortable or making them feel cared for. If you cannot think of anything, ask them, “What can I do for you?” Remember, the best way to repay kindness is kind.
The most effective way of thanking someone is acknowledgment. Let everyone know what a wonderful, kind, responsive, and sympathetic person they are. Give a toast in their honor; share the story of how they helped you with friends, relatives, or your followers online. Tag them in a post, story, or TikTok video with your gripping tale of how they saved the day. This will make them feel like a superhero or give them that warm and fuzzy feeling of being validated and appreciated. Remember to respect their privacy if you choose to thank them online and omit any sensitive details that might make them feel uncomfortable. When in doubt, express your gratitude in general terms. This might not seem like a lot to you, but believe me, acknowledgment is the most powerful positive reinforcement. We are social animals, after all.
Gift an experience
Find a concert, a show, or a game they want to attend and treat them to tickets. Make sure to get two – one for them and one for their plus one. Accompany them if they invite you as a guest. This time together will help you build your friendship and strengthen your relationship by creating shared memories. If there are no suitable events in sight, choose an activity they would enjoy – a day in the water park, a painting master class, a wine tasting, a tea ceremony, or a bungee jump! Giving them a membership to a wellness spa, gym, or yoga studio is also a great alternative. This way, your recipient will think of you whenever they enjoy their membership privileges.
Assemble a gift box
Next time you go grocery shopping, keep an eye out for some little things you can treat your special person with: bags of candy, candied fruit, beef jerky, herbal tea, cute jars of honey or jam, hand or feet warmers, bath salts, fancy soaps, cute cable protectors, magazines about something they like, etc. Put it all in a gift box and hand it to them with your thanks. If you live far from each other, mail it to them. Enclose a card with words of thanks or a coded message if you want to add a mystery to your gift. Such boxes are always a hit with my friends because unpacking them taps into a child-like wonder of opening your Christmas stocking or a surprise egg. Alternatively, subscribe them to a monthly box. There are many options: specialty foods, wine, toiletries, fandom memorabilia, or even boxes for a modern witch.
Tap into your creativity
Want to do something really memorable? Write them a poem to express why they deserve your thanks or to share a memory of a happy moment connected with them. If rhyming is not your forte, you can always make it a heartfelt free verse. If you are musical, write a song and record a music video. Send it privately or post it for the whole world to see what a wonderful person they are. In case you struggle to find the right words, there are plenty of songs expressing gratitude and appreciation: Thank You by Dido, Thank You for Being a Friend by Golden Girls, Thank You for Loving Me by Bon Jovi, Thank You by Alanis Morissette, Thank God for You by Sawyer Brown, and many others.
Throw a party in their honor
One of the epic ways to thank someone is to throw them a party. Decorate the premises with banners saying nice things about your recipient or toast them and make a speech expressing your gratitude. If you want to take it a step further, make it a themed party around something they are passionate about. For example, for a Potterhead, you can arrange a wizarding party with a sorting ceremony and potion brewing. I mean, if you think this post is helpful, send me an owl, and I’ll be there. Just saying. However, if your special someone is a reserved and private person, a cute and warm tea party with scones and cupcakes is highly recommended.
This one is very moving and creates an unforgettable experience for your recipient. Write down everything you are thankful for, appreciate about, and love in this person on little pieces of paper. Fold them and put them into a jar. Colorful post-its work best, creating a confetti-like look. Mix them with little candies in foil wrappers, beads, and glitter to jazz it up. Your recipient can open one note each morning to give them a little pep in their step – or in the evening as a pick-me-up after a rough day. A gratitude jar is a beautiful idea when you want to say thank you to someone as a group. For example, suppose your class wants to thank your professor for a brilliant course. You can each write what you found particularly useful or inspiriting. A scrapbook is another spin on this idea.
Contribute to charity in their name
Some people are just too modest. If your recipient declines all help propositions and shies away from gifts and praise, you can still show them their kindness didn’t go unnoticed. Make a donation in their name to a non-profit or charity dedicated to an issue they are passionate about. Wildlife preservation, health awareness, children’s education, animal shelters, disability rights, ending hunger – there are so many worthy causes!
This Thanksgiving, gratitude and appreciation might be flowing your way too. Being able to receive it is just as important as giving it. John Amodeo, Ph.D., psychotherapist, coach, and an award-winning author, advises you to let it in without second-guessing and “allow yourself to notice how good it feels to be valued and appreciated.” Gratitude and appreciation lie at the core of human connection. Celebrate it this season with your nearest and dearest!