The amazing effects of gratitude on those we thank

The amazing effects of gratitude on those we thank

The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated

William James

The amazing effects of gratitude can be far-reaching. Saying thank you to the people we are grateful for, not only makes us feel good, but it can also have an incredible impact on the person we are thanking, on many levels. In this blog, we explore the benefits that showing appreciation can bring to those around us, and the effects of gratitude on their health and wellbeing.

What is gratitude and why is it important?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, gratitude is defined as 'the feeling or quality of being grateful'. It's an emotion associated with kindness, generosity and warmth created as a result of something positive happening, accompanied by a feeling of thankfulness towards the person (or thing) that made it happen.

Scholars, scientists, philosophers and theologians have been fascinated by this concept since ancient times, but it wasn't until more recently that the amazing effects of gratitude began to be studied in greater scientific depth. A white paper from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley provides some interesting insights into the history of gratitude. It outlines how gratitude has evolutionary and biological roots, but that research shows that it also develops through childhood, and is affected by parenting, education and cultural influences, as well as individual personality, among other things.

Research into animal behaviour, such as that by Robert Trivers (1971), suggests that gratitude is the basis of 'reciprocal altruism' - the idea that doing something for someone may encourage that person to return the favour, or 'pay it forward' at a later date. It implies that that gratitude may have evolved as a way of making friends and allies in order to build strong communities, in which its members are more likely to support one another, and so help each other to thrive.

In addition to helping us build strong relationships, much of the research into the effects of gratitude has implied a strong link between gratitude and general happiness and well-being. Studies by leading researcher Robert Emmons, among others, have concluded that the positive effects of gratitude include:

  • Increased feelings of happiness
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better sleep

So expressing our thanks to others can make us feel good, and the amazing effects of gratitude on our health and well-being are abundantly clear. But how does gratitude actually affect the person receiving it? To answer this question, we first need to look at the reasons why we feel the need to be appreciated.

Why do we need to feel appreciated?

Research shows that gratitude and the need for appreciation are deep-rooted in the human psyche. Fundamentally, human beings are social creatures who require affirmation and acceptance from other humans in order to feel like they 'belong'. And this sense of belonging makes humans feel happy. According to a psychology paper by John Amodeo, PhD, being appreciated brings us happiness because:

  • We feel valued
  • We feel like we are being seen
  • We feel liked
  • We have a sense of meaning
  • We feel connected

It's human nature to feel as though we have a sense of purpose and that we really matter. All these things above go a long way towards making us feel that we are contributing, that we are recognised, and what we are doing is worthwhile. And this validation comes through the expression of gratitude and appreciation from others - and this can be a powerful motivational tool to drive action is many aspects of our lives.

The amazing effects of gratitude

Other than giving us a wonderful sense of happiness and well-being, the amazing effects of receiving gratitude from people around us can have a big impact, both in the workplace and at home. Here are just some of the ways receiving words of thanks can have a positive impact on the way we feel, and how it can drive action:

Makes us feel safe

Feeling appreciated makes us feel secure - being recognised for something we have done well gives us confidence in our ideas, helps us summon the courage to be innovative and share our thoughts. It is when we feel safe and free of anxiety, we can think more clearly, and when we may do our best work.

Encourages improvement

Thanking someone for something wonderful they have done is incredibly motivating, and can encourage that person to want to improve. In a busy world where there is always lots to do and never enough hours in the day, our time is a precious resource. We all want to feel as though our endeavours are appreciated, otherwise our actions seem futile, and this valuable resource wasted. When people show gratitude for our efforts, it makes us feel valued. And if we feel valued, we are more inclined to continue with our work and strive to achieve even more.

We saw the amazing effects of gratitude during the Covid-19 pandemic, when people instinctively came together to support each other during unprecedented times. The power of appreciation was clear as we clapped for keyworkers and thanked our communities, giving people the strength to carry on. An outpouring of kindness, camaraderie and thankfulness towards the heroes of the pandemic not only gave us all a sense of positivity, but motivated and encouraged our frontline workers to carry on with their incredible work.

Improves physical and mental health

The effects of gratitude on health and well-being have been widely documented. According to Dr. Glenn Fox, PhD (in an interview with Runners World) experiencing gratitude releases dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins - all 'feel good' chemicals in the brain which can create an effect similar to a 'runner's high' brought on by exercising. These chemicals can induce feelings of happiness, relieve pain and reduce stress, all of which have a huge impact on our minds and bodies.

Helps us connect with others

When someone says 'thank you' or expresses their appreciation for something we have done, we feel a greater sense of connection to that person, and in doing so we build a stronger relationship with them. Research by Sarah Algo at the University of California suggests that gratitude is a powerful means of building relationships, not only on a one-to-one level, but by bringing whole groups of people together too. It showed that individuals can be inspired to be kind and helpful, and to connect with like-minded people around them, even by just witnessing an act of gratitude.

The benefits of showing appreciation to frontline workers

We spoke to some of our heroes from the education, healthcare and social care sectors to find out what impact messages of thanks had on them, and here's what they said:

Gratitude in education

Our school motto is 'Dream, Believe, Achieve' and an important part of living this message is that staff in our school feel valued and appreciated by the wider community that we serve.

Heather Daly, Deputy Headteacher, St Joseph and St Bede RC Primary School

Well-being is crucial to the development of staff and students. It's not just about the incredible outcomes we help our students achieve, that make it worthwhile but the positive feedback we receive... that is the most rewarding.

Mandy Wilton, Headteacher at Cranbury College

Sometimes in life, it's the little things that often mean the most. There is power behind recognition for an action, a kind word, a helping hand and a smile... raising the wellbeing of all involved.

Helen Nott, Deputy Headteacher at St Mary's Fields Primary School

Praise is so important and provides the kind of positive experience or uplift that can increase someone's self-confidence and self-esteem.

Laura Nykolyszyn, Teacher, Eyres Monsell Primary School

To receive an unexpected message of thanks really does generate a huge smile, and in this current world of negativity it shows that there is nothing better for your mental health than reading a kind word of thank or praise.

Teaching Assistant, Primary School

Read more about how to say thank you to a teacher.

Gratitude in healthcare

I don't know anyone who treats it just as a job -- they do it because they care and they know they can make a difference. And it will give them such a boost to have patients tell them as an individual how much they appreciate them. You can't buy those good feels.

Jennie Dock, Practice Manager, Hedge End Medical Centre

We know that when our patients say thank you to our staff that it boosts morale so much and it makes it more valuable in these very difficult times. We all know that happy patients make happy staff.

Sharon Kidd, Patient Experience Manager, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

With the mounting pressures of healthcare as well as the strain caused by the pandemic, it's incredibly important that that our staff are recognised and feel appreciated for all the incredible work they do on a day-to-day basis.

Nicole Wheatley, Quality and Compliance Coordinator, The Spinney Surgery

Read more about how to say thank you to NHS staff.

Gratitude in social care

We are passionate about empowering our colleagues to give their best by highlighting sincere gratitude is the simplest, most powerful way to acknowledge their value. When somebody goes out of their way to say thanks, it feels great... the effects are very real and can even be long-lasting.

Brogan Rehill, Head of Marketing and Fundraising at Age Concern Hampshire

Take a minute out of your day to tell them how much you appreciate what they do please, you never know, your words might just be the boost needed on that day.

Jane Brightman, Social Care Manager, Institute of Healthcare and Social Care Management

Thanking and praising is going to be integral to improving recognition in the social care sector.

Adam Purnell, Director of Social Care, Institute of Health and Social Care Management

Read more about how to say thank you to a social care worker.

How can Thank and Praise help?

We can see how a small act of kindness and a message of thanks can go a long way to help motivate, build confidence, provide a sense of worth, and encourage people to connect and achieve - even in the most challenging times. So now you know all about the amazing effects of gratitude, how do you go about sharing your thanks with those who have impacted you in some way? Thank and Praise is here to help.

TAP is a quick and easy way to send a message of thanks to those working in education, health and social care. You can either send a thank you note to an organisation using one of our public digital thanking walls, or via private message to a member of staff you wish to show your appreciation for. Don't worry if you don't know their contact details - all you need is a name and an organisation and we'll do the rest.

Why not make sending your message of thanks even easier with the TAP App? Download it now and feel the benefits of gratitude on your own health and happiness, as well as make someone special feel amazing!

To find out more about how to create a thanking wall for your education, health or social care organisation, or become a TAP partner or supporter, please visit us at