Power of appreciation: Empowering yourself, fostering strong relationships with regular expressions of gratitude (with video)


Kelly Wei

Our everyday lives are full of people, places and things we take advantage of and fail to appreciate. Learning to say ‘thank you’ helps us build stronger relationships, become resilient and take control.

Akila Muthukumar, Staff Writer

In the middle, of a stressful week filled with tests for students or office meetings for adults, gratitude might be the last priority for most people. Being thankful, and more importantly, expressing thankfulness, is something people have reserved for that special fourth Thursday in November.


But, what makes that one Thursday so different from every other day of the year?


Unfortunately, numerous people will approach the concept of gratitude incorrectly, with a misguided approach that only takes them further from happiness. One too many times I have been given unsolicited advice to “be grateful with what I already have because I’m not in XYZ (some terrible situation such as poverty or homelessness).”


“[This approach] assumes that, by wanting something better, you’re inherently ungrateful,” said Kristin Wong in Here’s What People Get Wrong About Gratitude, “[It’s as if] goals and gratitude are mutually exclusive.”


No one should be guilted or shamed because they aspire for more success, money or justice. Although it is important to put our struggles in perspective, we should be thankful not because we compare ourselves to those who have less, but because we understand the powerful, positive effects of gratitude.


Starting a week ago, every night, I make a list of everything and everyone I am thankful to have in my life. I acquired this new habit after a heartbreaking death to one of my family’s friends.


It was merely by chance that this was not one of my loved family members. Life is always changing, making it crucial to appreciate what you have instead of time forcing you to appreciate what you had.


We give little thought to the most essential things in life: family, friends, a home and meals we eat every day and yet, we cannot imagine waking up one morning and not having any of them.


Expressing gratitude by not only counting our blessings, but by telling others how we are blessed to have them in our life is conducive to positive relationships with loved ones.


“Those who expressed appreciation in relationships [created] higher positive regard for their friend/roommate and more comfort in voicing relationship concern,” said Nathaniel Lambert of Florida State University’s graduate theses, in an experiment conducted with over 70 participants who were divided into groups that either expressed appreciation or did not.


In addition, gratitude can be a defense mechanism to remain resilient through trying times and regain control after hectic events.


A study conducted by Dr. Robert Emmons of Harvard University evaluated the health of parents who lived through the devastating Hurricane Andrew of 1992 that hit Florida.


The study revealed one of the main factors in reinforcing resilience “was an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what they had not lost during the hurricane,” wrote another professor Dr. Robert Brooks in his article Gratitude in the Face of Adversity: A Source of Resilience.


One father who participated in the study observed, “I had this overwhelming joy to be alive…that elation that we were alive; that really stuck with us.”


Essentially, making gratitude a regular part of your routine ensures you will always find silver lining in the worst time.


“You need to start finding joy in the small things instead of holding out for big achievements,” said Marelisa Fabrega in her article, How Gratitude Can Change Your Life.


As the old aphorism states, “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”


I learned that regular expressions of appreciation allows me to live a fuller life, not merely because I have more than someone else or because it’s a necessary Thanksgiving tradition, but because I can be a stronger person with healthier relationships on a daily basis.

Follow Akila @akilam29