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2,000 times a year.
That’s how often the average person says “thank you,” according to the research. Strikingly, more than half of those “thanks” are not sincere. They are uttered out of habit or politeness.
Has the art of gratitude been dyed out?
Don’t lose heart too soon.
Gratitude isn’t just about words of appreciation. It has so many unpenetrated territories.
And cultural differences, too. Did you know that saying “thank you” in Hindi can be insulting?
Continue reading to learn about the origin, forms, and cultural peculiarities of gratitude and see its potential to save people’s lives literally.
I’ve also picked the best books about gratitude for all ages – from toddlers to adults – to master this subtle art.
The Origin of the Word “Gratitude”
Modern English gratitude originated from the Latin gratus, which means thankful or pleasing. It dates back to the middle of the fifteenth century.
The vocabulary of gratitude in Greek begins with Homeric Hymns. However, the poet didn’t have a definite term to express this feeling. He rather described it. For example, Hera promises to “always know the favor”, if Sleep grants her request.
As we all know, gratitude isn’t always expressed by words. See what other shapes it can take.
The Forms of Gratitude
There are four basic forms of appreciative attitude and behavior:
- Mental – being conscious and aware of the grateful feeling towards yourself or others
- Verbal – saying how thankful you are in any possible way
- Connective – doing a friendly favor or providing reciprocal assistance
- Concrete – offering some object or thing in return
Why is gratefulness so important, anyway?
The Power of Gratitude
Let’s talk about the advantages of being grateful.
Gratitude promotes prosocial behavior and a desire to help others.
The benefit of a simple “thank you” lies in prosocial behavior, in the first place.
For example, in the series of studies described by PsychCentral, managers’ gratitude expressions helped people feel social value and motivated them to provide assistance to others.
Gratitude reduces stress and boosts motivation at work.
According to Monster’s poll results, 97% of workers feel that their anxiety and stress lessen as a result of expressing gratitude. At the same time, receiving gratitude encourages 94% of employees to work harder.
Gratitude improves health and increases life satisfaction.
What if I told you that a thank-you a day keeps a doctor away?
Hard to believe, right?
Yet, here’s the proof. During a 10-week study, people who wrote everyday notes about being grateful reported better subjective well-being and had fewer visits to doctors than those who concentrated on displeasing things.
People who feel thankful tend to be more optimistic and satisfied with their lives.
Gratitude strengthens relationships.
Need a booster shot for your romantic relationships?
Express everyday gratitude to your partner.
Researchers discovered that showing gratitude to a partner enhances the sense of connection. Another study proves the following: the more appreciative people are about their partners, the more likely they remain in relationships.
Gratitude saves lives.
It sounds a bit exaggerated, but I assure you it’s not.
Sean Mclain Brown, a marine veteran, writes:
“Saying ‘thank you’ literally saved my life”
Brown suffered from PTSD-induced depression that nearly led him to suicide. A simple thank-you from a civilian gave him meaning and purpose.
And there are plenty of similar cases. You can read the stories of Danny Baker, George Kalantzis, and others if you google “how gratitude saved my life”.
How Culture Is Shaping Our Thank-yous
Turns out your perception of gratitude depends on the culture you live in.
How would you react to the following phrase?
“I’ve never thanked my parents for anything.”
Why didn’t he ever do it?
The answer is simple: it can be insulting.
While in the United States, he says, it’s a common routine to dole out “thanks” to the right and to the left, in India, it may be interpreted as an insult or sarcasm. Sometimes, it may hint at formality and distancing in relationships, if a wife and a husband exchange “thanks”.
There’s an “unspoken understanding of gratitude” in the Hindi language. And when people do say “thank you” in Hindi, they try to maintain eye contact, show sincerity, or even make a Namaste gesture.
Indeed, some cultures like Indian, Chinese, or Taiwanese go beyond the mundane perception of thankfulness.
How can you uncover the deep-rooted meaning of gratitude and exercise it every day?
How to Become a Master of Gratitude
Here’s how you can practice gratefulness in your everyday life:
- Pen down all your “thanks”
- Have gratitude conversations and tell people you appreciate them and what they do for you
- Create DIY thank-you cards
- Remind yourself to be thankful daily
- Don’t be too picky – appreciate every single detail
- Try gratitude exercises (gratitude tree or gratitude jar)
- Practice mindfulness
And finally –
Read books on how to be grateful and express it to yourself and to others.
Best Gratitude Books for All Ages
The below picks are the touchstones for grasping the idea of thankfulness.
Books for Teaching Kids To Be Grateful
It’s never too early to tell the little ones how to be thankful. In fact, babies start learning the concept of appreciation, when they’re as young as 18 months.
For small babies and toddlers
- 123s of Thankfulness by Patricia Hegarty
- Thanks A Lot by Raffi
- Look and Be Grateful by Tomie dePaola
- Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
- Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
For older children
- Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora
- The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey
- I Am Thankful by Suzy Capozzi
- My First Gratitude Journal by Creative Journals for Kids
- Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
YA Books on Gratitude
Here are the must-read stories for young adults on how to express gratitude through feelings, words, and deeds.
“I regret not showing my gratitude towards you more appropriately.” – Wednesday Addams
Yup, it’s Wednesday!
It’s All Love is a fascinating memoir by a truly remarkable actress Jenna Ortega who plays Wednesday in the same-name series on Netflix.
In her unique, passionate manner, Jenna Ortega explains what self-appreciation means to her and how she cherishes every moment with the closest people. She also teaches you to say “thank you” to yourself for just being who you are and doing what you do.
Love yourself, believe in your power, and enjoy every single quote from Jenna Ortega.
Caroline Millington defines it as “the quality of being mindfully kind towards oneself and generous with self-compassion.”
You, you, you!
You should start noticing “you” in the everyday chaos of activities and tasks and thank yourself for everything. Be grateful for every challenge, setback, or difficult situation that was a lesson and made you the person you’re today.
Here’s the link to Kindfulness + ten kindfulness commandments from Caroline Millington.
What I particularly like about this book is that it also promotes body positivity and acceptance.
It’s one of my favorite self-help books, along with Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith.
How about journaling your “thanks”?
Jessica Hische, an author-illustrator, gives you a notebook to begin each day with a couple of grateful minutes.
Hische’s comments during this journaling practice are beautiful and inspiring, and the design is impeccable, like everything Jessica Hische does.
Grab your pen and write words of appreciation to someone or something.
This journal can also be a perfect present for your loved one on any holiday or special occasion.
Feeling grateful for life is easy when it’s full of happiness and bright unicorns.
But what if it throws miseries and losses at you? How to appreciate your life even at the most challenging times?
17-year-old Mia gets seriously injured in a car accident. No other family member is left alive.
Can she ever find the strength to be grateful for every detail and chance in her life? Should she stay and enjoy life or end it once and forever?
Btw, if you love book-to-movie adaptations, you may watch If I Stay (2014) with Chloë Grace Moretz, who also starred in The Peripheral (2022) series based on the same-name book by William Gibson.
Books About Gratitude for Adults
Sip inspiration for grateful living from any or all of the following books.
Can you guess what Stephen King said when asked how he felt after a near-death experience (he was hit by a van) in 1999?
He gave a one-word answer: Gratitude.
Robert Emmons, a psychologist, and professor at UC Davis, begins with the story about the “King” of horror and then dives deep into the scientific and religious contexts of thankfulness.
He reveals all the secrets of gratefulness in this in-depth research. Aside from his own experimental findings, he also shares discoveries of other psychologists like Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness.
Now to the philosophical implications of gratitude.
In Section One of the book, the author tracks this concept in the classical works by such titans of thought as Seneca, Homer, Aristotle, and Cicero. He tries to find the meaning of gratitude in societies and examines how it evolved through the ages.
In Section Two, he covers the philosophical forms of gratitude:
- Grateful sentiment
- Grateful action
- Grateful being
What about ingratitude, then? Could you justify a person being ungrateful?
Discover why and how some philosophers justified it.
A few minutes before midnight, on New Year’s Eve, Janice Kaplan decided she didn’t want to be the ungrateful lady anymore.
This autobiographical story recounts her one-year journey from ungratefulness to gratefulness. The book is broken into four parts: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
Each season brings her practical insights on how to appreciate what you possess and encounter on your life path: from family and friends to career and health.
I’ve also enjoyed informative and fun interviews with Barbra Streisand, Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood, and other celebs who share their thoughts on gratitude with the author.
One of the British newspapers called Janice Kaplan the “Glossy High Priestess of the Gratitude Cult,” while the book became an NYT bestseller.
Not dying changed everything.
Kristi Nelson tells her personal story of struggling and surviving cancer at the age of 33.
She takes you by hand and leads you through grateful living in the real world:
- Appreciate your emotions
- Treasure your body as it is
- Befriend your full self
- Cherish connection
- Belong in nature
There are many more practices on how to live gratefully mentioned in this book. Wake Up Grateful is a guidebook you can open at any page and find something to reflect on and bring gratitude into your life.
Let’s Be Grateful to Each Other
“Thank you” isn’t just about good manners.
It’s also beneficial to the self and to others. Let’s read the greatest books to inspire gratitude, sow its seeds, and cultivate the well-being of our inner selves and society.
Thank you for following me this far, and I genuinely mean it, with utmost sincerity.
Who are you thankful for, and why? Share your experience in the comments section, and don’t forget to tell that very person how grateful you are.