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7 Meaningful Ways To Express Your Gratitude

By Minrose Straussman

The holiday season—from Thanksgiving to Christmas—is a time when we gather with friends and family, eat delicious meals, exchange gifts, and, crucially, express gratitude for all we have to be thankful for. Sharing our gratitude for things is a bit like a muscle; the more we do it, the easier it becomes. If you’re a little rusty when it comes to saying thank you, or you’re just looking for a new way to express your feelings of gratitude, we have a few activities or approaches you may want to try this holiday season (or any time of year).

Expressing gratitude in speech

It’s Christmas morning or Hanukkah evening, and you are opening presents—exciting! But how do you express your gratitude to the gift-giver? Maybe you find yourself at a loss for words. We can also struggle to express our appreciation when someone does us a favor or helps us out with a difficult task. To help make these conversations a little easier, try one of these sentence starters on for size:

 

  • Thank you for [object]. I love the [detail about object].
    • Thank you for the new sweater. I love the crimson color.
  • I appreciate you because [quality or character trait].
    • I appreciate you because you took the time to find my favorite cookies.
  • It meant a lot to me when you [description of action].
    • It meant a lot to me when you helped me move last week.
  • When you [did x], it made me feel [emotion]. 
    • When you helped me clean the kitchen, it made me feel supported.

If you’re looking for alternatives to the word gratitude itself, whether to use in writing or when speaking, check out our article on synonyms for gratitude here.

Dinner table gratitude activity

Many families on Thanksgiving like to go around the table to share things they are grateful for. Honestly, it can be good to do this at any time of year. To make this activity a little bit more interactive, you can play a Gratitude Game. All you need is a bowl of M&Ms. Everyone reaches into the bowl to grab one M&M. Then, based on the color you pick, you share one of the following things:

 

  • Brown: Someone you are grateful for
  • Yellow: Something you are grateful for
  • Green: Somewhere you are grateful for
  • Red: Anything you are grateful for that starts with the first letter of your name
  • Orange: A food you are grateful for
  • Blue: An experience you are grateful for

You can do as many rounds as you like! To help make this game a little easier, we have provided a printable for the game with the directions here. (And, as a bonus, you can also eat the M&Ms at the end.)

Gratitude acrostic

Sometimes the people in our lives are just so wonderful we want to let them know how much we appreciate many things about them. One way to do this is with an acrostic poem. An acrostic is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a specific word or phrase. In this case, you can do a gratitude acrostic using each letter of the person’s first name, along with a series of adjectives you use to describe them. For example, a gratitude acrostic for John would look something like this:

Judicious
Open
Helpful
Nice

This can be a stand-alone activity or included as part of a thank-you card (more on those below).

Gratitude scavenger hunt

This activity can be particularly fun to do with children. Make a list of objects to find, or use our gratitude scavenger hunt printable here. Have each participant take a picture of the items that meet their criteria on the list. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can print the pictures out and use them to make a collage showing all of the things you’re grateful for. The prize for finishing first is up to you.

Some things you might include on your scavenger hunt are:

 

  • Find something that makes you happy.
  • Find something that smells nice.
  • Find something that tastes delicious.
  • Find something that makes a nice sound.
  • Find something that reminds you of your friends.
  • Find something that you like to do outside.
  • Find something that surprises you.
  • Find something that you can share with others.
  • Find something that is your favorite color.
  • Find something that you can use to make someone else smile.
  • Find something you are proud of.
  • Find something that you enjoy in the morning.
  • Find something that you enjoy at night.
  • Find something that makes you laugh.
  • Find something that is beautiful.
  • Find something that makes you excited.

Gratitude walk

It is not just people and objects we ought to be thankful for. It is also good to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the environment. One way to do this is to go on a “Gratitude Walk.”

Go on a walk in the park or in nature. Along the way, collect small tokens of parts of nature you are grateful for, eg. pine cones, acorns, leaves. You may also choose to instead take a picture of these items or draw them. When you get back home, you can make a small display of your items or pictures as a reminder of what we have to be grateful for in nature.

With older kids or adults, you can take a more active role in showing gratitude for nature by doing some clean-up on your walk. Get gloves and trash bags and pick up litter as you go. This way, you are giving back to the environment as a way to express your thanks.

Gratitude meditation

Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to slow down and remember to think of all you have to be grateful for. One way to reflect on all you have to be thankful for is with a gratitude meditation. You do not have to be experienced at meditating to do this activity; you just have to have about 10 minutes and a desire to give it a try.

 

  • Get in a comfortable position, either seated or lying down, in a quiet location. If you feel it will help you focus, you might choose to play some relaxing music during your meditation.
  • Take a few deep belly breaths by breathing deeply all the way into your stomach.
  • Visualize someone or something you are grateful for and all its qualities. For example, what does it look like, how does it sound, how does it make you feel, etc. Try to be as specific as possible.
  • Repeat the visualization with 3-5 things you are grateful for (or as many as you can think of).

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Writing thank-you cards

Writing thank-you cards can be tedious and difficult. For such a short piece of writing, it can feel incredibly daunting and repetitive, especially if you have a lot of them to write. However, don’t overthink it. When it comes to thank-you cards, it really is the thought that counts. They don’t have to be overlong. The key to writing a good thank-you note is to keep it short, sweet, and heartfelt.

 

  • Start with “Dear [Name]”.
  • Give a compliment, such as “It was very thoughtful of you to give me such a lovely gift.”
  • Follow up with a specific sentence about the gift, such as “The tea cozy you got me was adorable.”
  • Use a thank-you sign off, such as “Many thanks.” For the holiday season, you might want to add something like “and happy holidays!”

You can of course use store-bought thank-you cards, but if you are creative at all, you might choose to hand-make one instead. It doesn’t have to be perfect—again, it’s the thought that counts. This option is especially appreciated when it comes from children.

For more on how to write (and send) a good thank-you card, check out our article “4 Tips on How to Write a Thank-You Card” here. You’ll also find a guide to thanking teachers, and writing heartfelt letters for mothers, and fathers—which are appropriate any time of year!

We could all get into the practice of showing gratitude more often and in a more sincere way, during this time of year or any other. Hopefully, one or all of these gratitude activities will help make your holiday season a little more thoughtful.

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The last step to a thank-you card? Making sure every little detail is perfect. It’s easy to do that with Grammar Coach™ by Thesaurus.com. Simply write or paste your letter directly into the Grammar Coach text box to automatically check for grammar and spelling errors. The tool can also suggest synonym swaps for any words you may have overused. Hey, it happens!


Originally from Pittsburgh, Minrose Straussman is an instructor in the English department at the University of the New Sorbonne in Paris, where she teaches English language and American culture. A frequent contributor to Dictionary.com, she has also written for the Jewish online magazine Hey Alma, Shmoop.com, and other outlets. For more by Minrose, read: Terms For Understanding The Diversity Of Jewish American Life | Piblings & Niblings: Do You Know These Words For Aunts, Uncles, Nieces, & Nephews?

Grateful for the holiday season? Show it by writing your holiday cards using these tips.

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