Gratitude: Expressed, Not Repressed

By Katie, 5:58 am

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. G.B. Stern

On Tuesday my friend Ashley from Nourishing the Soul – an awesome blog about body image and media literacy – officially launched a very exciting new blogger series called Self-Discovery, Word by Word. As she explains, the idea is to engage the blogging community in thoughtful reflection by focusing on a single word. This month: Gratitude.

You can see Ashley’s original post for full details, including how you can participate too!

In honor of the series, I’ve been spending some time mulling over the subject of gratitude. I’ve written about it before, making the argument that we can’t just wait for gratitude to appear out of thin air; we have to cultivate it. Because let’s be honest: thinking we’re grateful and actually feeling grateful are two very different things. It’s a subject that’s easy to talk about, but feeling it in our hearts – actually living our lives from a place of thankfulness – is a different story.

But I have discovered one of the simplest ways to move from thinking about gratitude to actually feeling gratitude: by expressing it.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

Because here’s the thing: being thankful is never a solitary experience. There is always someone or something else involved. I believe that anything and everything for which I am grateful is a gift, given to me by God, by the universe, by a friend or family member, or even by a stranger. Even my own successes and accomplishments were facilitated by someone else’s love, mercy, and sacrifice, a point all-too-easy to forget.

But I remind myself by expressing it. By taking that gratitude outside the confines of my own mind and sharing it - sometimes with a quiet prayer to God, sometimes through a wildly tight embrace with my mom, sometimes with a genuine smile to the stranger who held the door for me.

It seems ironic, but I get more when I give it away. When I express my gratitude, it simultaneously swells inside of me; it moves from a mere thought in my mind to a deepness in my heart.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. JFK

It’s important to remember, too, that expressing thankfulness can take on many different forms. The most obvious one is to utter the words “thank you,” but even that can be done in different ways: spoken face-to-face, written in a letter, shouted from the rooftops. ;-)

 (Source)

But we can also express gratitude by how we live, by the way we use the gifts we’ve been given. If my best friend buys me a cashmere sweater for my birthday, and I proceed to toss it in my basement dryer on high heat even though the tag clearly says “Dry Clean Only,” I haven’t treated her gift with much respect. I haven’t expressed my gratitude through my actions.

But if I take good care of the sweater and wear it often, my friend will be able to see my thankfulness, you know? Perhaps I can even lend it to another friend, so that more people can experience the wonderful softness of cashmere. ;-)

OK, maybe that’s a cheesy example, but I think the point holds true for all of our blessings – our talents and abilities, our relationships, our material comforts. We can cultivate gratitude by expressing our thanks to the giver, and by sharing our blessings with others. We can go beyond talking about thankfulness to really feeling it when we don’t keep it bundled up inside, but rather share it freely and openly with those around us.

Who/what are you thankful for today? How might you go about expressing that gratitude, either through words or actions?

33 Responses to “Gratitude: Expressed, Not Repressed”

  1. I’m almost in tears, Katie!

    As I was reading, I was thinking about my feelings of being thankful and how I could express them to the person I feel thankful to. Thank you, Katie for getting me thinking about this. I was going to write my post today but now know that I’ve only been thinking, not doing.

    • vanessa says:

      I just read your fantastic post here. I am re posting it on Facebook Fan Page. It seems like we are both fans of the attitude: “Gratitude is good for you.” Grateful Nation is an online community that gives grateful people the opportunity and resources to connect, give back, and be thankful. Jump into the unending cycle of gratitude here at Grateful Nation Thank you, Vanessa

  2. Excellent post!

    I think expressing gratitude has come to be something that is uncomfortable in our culture now. But it’s so amazing how it feels when somebody genuinely expresses gratitude to you for something you did and the feelings and actions should be returned more often. Thanks for reminding me of this :) I shall keep this in mind and action.

  3. Hayley says:

    Beautifully written post and so appropriate. Geez I don’t even know where to begin with all that I’m thankful for. The fact that I can stay home with my baby girl, my baby girl herself, her health, my health, my family’s health, the friends and family who surround me with so much love, the fact that I have a warm home in the winter and a cool house in the hot summer, nourishing food, the ability to move my body, that I have all of my senses intact (I can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell..)…I could go on forever. It’s the little things we take for granted every day that I need to stop and remember. Not everyone in this world has what I have and I shouldn’t take those things for granted..

    Thank you for reminding me of this…I do my best to always thank God every night for all that I have in my life and voice my gratitude to the people I love and share my life with.

  4. I love this post. I need to be better about expressing my gratitude. Like you, I often FEEL grateful, but much less often express it to the people I love.

  5. Katie, so beautiful! I loved how you incorporated the quotes, as well. I totally agree that it’s so important to lead a grateful life and let our loved ones know how much they mean to us.

    I’m grateful for my mom, for my boyfriend, for my family and friends, for my health, for my kitty, for the ability to do what I love day in and day out, even though I still get cranky about it sometimes. :) I’m grateful for the gift of life.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  6. Tamara says:

    The other week I wrote a post about how grateful I am to my parents for raising me right. As a petulant teen I never said “thank you” because I was too busy sulking over the things they /didn’t/ do to recognize everything they did.

    But gosh darn, if I start listing all the things I’m thankful for, I won’t have anything left come Thanksgiving next month :p

  7. I am really excited about this series and planning to do a post on it later today…

    I am so frustrated by so many things in my life, it is hard to see what I have to be thankful for. But I am working on appreciating them because all of the things I have lost are things that I took for granted before.

    So today, I am thankful for my boyfriend and his support, my family, that I get to live in Colorado, that I am working on setting up new opportunities for myself, for my volunteer work, and for swimming!

  8. “Because let’s be honest: thinking we’re grateful and actually feeling grateful are two very different things.” <—- So, SO true. I can SAY all day long the things I'm grateful for, but there's such a huge difference when I'm actually LIVING with that gratitude inside of me.

    Today I am grateful for: the huge pumpkin muffin from Dunkin Donuts that I'm about to dig in to. Sounds sort of lame, right? :P But that muffin actually symbolizes: 1) another thing I'm eating that I *don't* have to photograph and post on my blog 2) I'm ridding myself of focusing too much on health and focusing on eating whatever the heck I want. As Rachel Wilkerson so eloquently states: Sorry, I'm not sorry!!

  9. I’ve recently been wondering if my parents know how grateful I am for everything that they’ve done for me. I try to show them and I’m sure they know. I guess I’ve just been feeling extra sentimental lately :)

  10. What an awesome post, Katie! I particularly love how you describe “being thankful is never a solitary experience.” I do think that expressing and cultivating gratitude can make us feel connected – whether to each other, God, or the universe.

  11. Hope says:

    It sounds like a great series. I will definitely have to check it out. I’ve noticed lately that thankful people are harder and harder to come by. For example, I’ll hold open the door for someone (and I don’t do this for the thanks, it’s just being polite) and I won’t even get a look or a “thank you.” Like people expect things now. I dunno, it just annoys me.

    So, when I think of those people, I always try to go out of my way to say thank you to the people that do small or even big things for me, like hold open the door.

    And what I’m thankful for today: My job, even though sometimes the people drive me bananas. :)

  12. This is so true! “thinking we’re grateful and actually feeling grateful are two very different things.”

  13. Tina says:

    I’m doing my gratitude post this afternoon. Yours is fabulous!! I love how you share a wonderful way to really get a hold of it and truly feel it deep down. You always have the best way of putting things in a new light. I just adore you and your blog, Katie. :)

  14. Sarah says:

    Yes! I completely agree that sometimes we experience gratitude by expressing it. I’m a words and list girl, so I often start by writing a list of what I CAN be(not necessarily “am”) grateful for. Usually, my list spills in to my actual attitude, which spills into my actions.

  15. Fabulous and inspiring as always, Katie! My yoga teacher last night helped me stop and remember to thank my body for performing the things I ask it to – I know my body took so much abuse during my eating disorder and pushes quite hard as an athlete, so I really was struck by taking the time to thank me for doing the things that make me…well, me!

  16. Meg says:

    It is amazing when we start to think about the things we are thankful for. It really makes me realize how much I have and is truly humbling.

    I’m grateful for the messes in my house. Really. Because it means I have an abundance. Dishes piled high means that not only do I have many of them, but it means I’ve had plenty of meals to eat. Laundry flowing over the basket means I have a huge pile of dirty clothes and still have clean ones to wear. Shoes scattered around the house means that I have not one, but many pairs.

    Beautiful post, Katie!

    • Katie says:

      Wow, this comment totally rocks. I have been complaining non-stop about my messy house, but your comment put it into a whole new perspective. THANK YOU!

  17. vanessa says:

    I just read your fantastic post here. It seems like we share the attitude that “Gratitude is good for you.” Grateful Nation is an online community that gives grateful people like you the opportunity & resources to connect, give back, and be thankful. Follow GN or jump into the unending cycle of gratitude here at Grateful Nation Thank you, Vanessa

  18. thetreadmilldiaries says:

    Thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I’m thankful for my loving husband, the best family, good friends and a life filled with wonder and endless possibilities.

  19. Liz says:

    Those are some great quotes on gratitude. Thanks for the reminder!

    I’m thankful for all these wonderful food bloggers, who have really changed my perspective on health and healthy eating! :)

  20. Josie says:

    the phrase, “living life from a place of gratefulness” is something i am going to have to chew on for a while. i think it’s an idea that never loses its relevance, and i know for me it’s a matter of just respecting it, and living it! thank you for this post!

  21. katie says:

    Seriously, Katie, you NEED to write a book!!! Gratitude is something we so easily take for granted and forget about. Everything we have is a gift and we need to be thanking God all the time, through our actions AND words! love you!

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  24. bridgit says:

    Katie,

    Spending the afternoon, journeying throught the other posts on gratitude!
    So, very true that it is not just talking about it but feeling it in our hearts. :-)
    God bless you, dear one!
    ~b

    • Katie says:

      Thank you, Bridgit! I’m so happy that you’re finding the gratitude series worthwhile! :)

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