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Thanking Others Is Actually Good for YOU, Research Confirms

Studies show the benefits of being a thanker, even if you're not thanked back.

If you say thank you but a person doesn’t thank you back, you may feel discouraged, give up trying, or even feel resentful. However, feeling grateful and saying thank you to others is incredibly beneficial for you, regardless of how another person reacts.

Gratitude can be described as:

  • a personality trait (e.g. “a gracious person”),
  • a feeling (“I’m so grateful for my job”), and as
  • a specific behavior (e. g. “Thank you for mowing the lawn”).

All of these - using mental training to appreciate the good stuff, focusing on blessings, or expressing thanks - improve multiple areas of your life, including mood, reputation, and relationships.

Benefits of being thankful include:

Saying Thanks Makes Others See You in a More Positive Light

People who say thank you are perceived as being more interpersonally warm than those who don't - a factor which provides "fertile ground" for friendships to flourish. Professor Monica Bartlett summarized her research on this saying,

“A simple thank you leads people to view you as a warmer human being and, consequently, to be more interested in socially engaging with you and continuing to get to know you to build a relationship with you.” 

Thankfulness Can Make You Happier

Feeling grateful helps you have a more positive affect and outlook.

Emmons and Stern (2013) found, 

"Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health and satisfaction with life of any personality trait—more so than even optimism, hope, or compassion. . . Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism. . . [They] can cope more effectively with everyday stress, show increased resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress, recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical health." 

McCullough and colleagues (2002) found:

“Compared with their less grateful counterparts, grateful people are higher in positive emotions and life satisfaction and also lower in negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, and envy. They also appear to be more prosocially oriented in that they are more empathic, forgiving, helpful, and supportive than are their less grateful counterparts.”

These effects persisted even after controlling for personality traits such as agreeableness and extraversion.

Expressing thanks can also make you happier. Dr. Seligman discovered that writing a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better, being specific about how their behavior positively impacted you, and delivering it /reading it in person, resulted in more happiness and less depression for the writer for a whole month afterward. 

Gratitude Helps You Find, Strengthen, and Feel Better About Your Relationships

Sarah Algoe writes about the Find-Remind-Bind theory of gratitude, which asserts that expressing gratitude signals to another person that you care about him or her. Gratitude is a spark that often ignites a series positive exchanges with a stranger or acquaintance. It also plays a central role in strengthening relationships with the people you love the most.

It’s obvious that feeling appreciated by your partner would make you feel positive toward your relationship. However, Gordon and colleagues (2012) found that feeling appreciative of your partner is also associated with greater relationship satisfaction.

If the question, "Why should I say thank you when no one says thank you to me?" ever pops up, these are some great reasons.

Copyright Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD 2016

Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents (2017), is an individual and couples counselor in Chicago's western suburbs (www.erinleyba.com). Follow her blog at www.thejoyfix.com or follow her on Facebook.

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