Thanksgiving and Expressing Gratitude

November 25, 2019

Categories: Gratitude

Happy early Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food, watching football, spending time with family… everything! So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about the importance of expressing gratitude.

Struggle with Gratitude?

My guess is that some of you may not think you have a problem with gratitude. When I talk to folks about their problems and the things they struggle with, gratitude doesn’t usually rise to the top of the list. It doesn’t immediately jump to the front of one’s mind.

I think that’s because most of us feel pretty grateful when good things happen to us. For example, I remember one time on my birthday, my mom sent me a nice card and a check for $100. I felt really happy about that for about a minute. “How very nice of her,” I thought to myself. Or, I went out to eat with a friend of mine, and as I enjoyed my fajitas, he listened to what I was going through and offered me some much needed encouragement. “I’m glad I have people like him in my life,” I thought to myself. My heart felt warm for a minute.

These things happen to me all the time. Something good happens in my life, or someone does something nice for me, and I feel grateful for a moment. I’m aware of these inner feelings happening throughout the day. So I can’t possibly struggle with gratitude, right?

Jesus and Gratitude

Let me tell you a story from the life of Jesus, written down by a man named Luke. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. As he was walking, he came across ten men with leprosy. Leprosy was a progressive disease that caused permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Folks who had leprosy were basically kicked out of their communities and quarantined. (It might be similar to how we think about a disease like Ebola today.)

Jesus meets the ten men with leprosy while traveling, and they ask Him to have pity on them. Jesus heals them and tells them to go show themselves to the priest. (People who were healed of leprosy had to be checked out by the priest in order to be reintegrated into the community.) Only one of the ten men comes back and gives thanks to Jesus for healing him. The other nine… Well, we don’t know much about them, just that they don’t come back.

Now here’s the kicker: How do you think those other nine men felt on the inside when they were healed of the leprosy? I bet they felt pretty grateful. I bet they were jumping for joy, skipping all the way to the temple. I bet they gathered their friends and families together and had a big celebration. I bet they felt incredibly thankful… on the inside.

But they didn’t express it. They didn’t come back.

Express Your Gratitude

This was a huge lesson for me. A lot of times in my life, even though I’m feeling grateful on the inside, I don’t take the time or energy to express my gratitude.

There’s something about expressing gratitude that makes a huge difference in our lives. When I don’t express my gratitude, I often forget the things I should be thankful for. My mind moves on to something I need to do, or something I’m anxious about. I lose the opportunity to give thanks.

Expressing Gratitude Makes You Happier

Taking advantage of opportunities to express gratitude is important for my heart. Gratitude actually makes me happier. A psychologist did a research study on all the things he thought might make people happier. Two of the most effective strategies had to do with gratitude. First, people who wrote down three things they were thankful for every day got happier. Second, people who wrote a note of appreciation to someone they hadn’t properly thanked got happier. These were significant changes, from something as simple as writing a heartfelt letter.

Expressing Gratitude Makes Others Happier

Expressing gratitude is also important for the happiness of others. To put it simply, expressing gratitude to those important to us is encouraging! And the people in your life need encouragement. We all do!

Action Step

Try this experiment: Next time you go to the grocery store, buy a pack of thank you cards. It’ll cost you five bucks. Then, every day for a week, think about a person in your life who you would like to thank for something. It could be something big, or it could be something little. It doesn’t matter. But every day, spend five minutes, write a note of gratitude, and mail the letter. Just see what happens. One week. It’s a complete win-win. Who is one person you would like to thank? Don’t just feel grateful feelings, express it!


Related Thoughts

No Comments

  1. John November 26, 2014 at 7:58 am - Reply

    Josh – you nailed it in this posting! Expressing gratitude is such an amazing thing for both the giver and reciever! At work we did a Week of Thanks complete with a Thanksgiving tree and expressing thanks to one another as we munched on pie!!!

    I want to THANK YOU for writing and putting such great thoughts out there and being vulnerable with your ideas.


  2. Joshua Hook November 28, 2014 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Thanks John! I appreciate the encouragement and support.

  3. The Gratitude Challenge - Joshua Hook December 10, 2014 at 11:51 am - Reply

    […] My family has a tradition at Thanksgiving for each of us to share a few things we are thankful for. Perhaps your family has a similar tradition. I think it’s valuable to think about and express the things we are grateful for. […]

  4. The Insanity of Comparison - Joshua Hook December 23, 2014 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    […] an upward comparison (i.e., comparing yourself with someone better than you), try doing a quick gratitude exercise. Think about one thing you are thankful for in your life. You could write it down in your […]

  5. […] Gratitude. Most of the time in life we tend to ignore when good things happen. We might notice the good thing […]

  6. […] an attitude of consistent gratitude is difficult. We have to be proactive about it, or else our thinking can slide toward negativity […]

  7. Letters of Gratitude - Joshua Hook July 20, 2016 at 10:53 am - Reply

    […] think it’s important to actually express our gratitude to others in a tangible way. There is an interesting story in the book of Luke where Jesus heals […]

  8. […] in several religious traditions, and it is even a big part of one of our national holidays (i.e., Thanksgiving). So it’s easier to connect the cue of mealtime with the practice of gratitude in our […]

  9. Name* November 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I’m grateful for you and your thoughts! Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  10. […] Improve gratitude for the health I do have. In the midst of this painful experience, I have found myself experiencing higher levels of gratitude for the health that I do have. I’m noticing that things I took for granted before (e.g., being able to sleep through the night, sit down without pain) are a HUGE deal. […]

  11. […] dinner. Like a slowly detonating bomb, before you know it, you’re red in the face, your gratitude has turned to anger, and your pleasant turkey coma has shifted to […]

  12. […] felt a unique sense of gratitude and appreciation while doing Murph. There were times during the workout where I felt absolutely spent—like I […]

Leave A Comment

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog posts.

Receive my e-book “The Mental Health Toolkit” for free when you subscribe.