16 ways to show gratitude without gifts

As I grow older, I find more ways to be grateful. It’s not that I didn’t have gratitude before, I just didn’t spend much time on it. Through experience, I’m more aware of ways to express thanks and appreciation through small and big actions alike.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a holiday my family celebrated every fourth Thursday of November. Our family tradition was to sit around the table and one by one tell something that we were thankful for.

I both loved and hated this tradition. On the one hand, it gave me a chance to reflect on things that made me happy, the things in my life that brought me joy, and the people who cared about me. I always found myself smiling, getting all choked up, and squishing my face around thinking back over the past year and the good and bad times.

But when it came to be my turn to share, I always felt a bit awkward. I mean, how do you even tell people what you are thankful for? Or that you’re grateful for THEM. And what if I left out someone sitting at the table that I didn’t shed my thankfulness upon. It felt like such a personal thing that I needed to hold close.

The problem was, I didn’t really know that there were many ways to show gratitude! Kind of like only doing something romantic on Valentine’s Day, or setting a year-long goal on New Year’s Eve. I had compartmentalized gratitude to just one day each year. How stressful is that! As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

16 ways to practice gratitude

1. Give someone a hug or a warm embrace

I love hugs! I love giving hugs. I love getting hugs! But I also recognize that other people do not, so ask in advance if you’re not sure. Time is precious. Let people know that you appreciate being with them non-verbally and let your energy do the talking.

2. Send a heartfelt thank-you note or email

In a time when communication is so prevalent and instantaneous, it’s also usually quite impersonal and sterile. Sending someone a personalized message sometimes is the only meaningful contact they get that day.

3. Offer to do something for the person, like clean their house or pick something up at the store for them

If you’re out and about, it means a lot to reach out to someone to let them know that you’re thinking of them, too. And who couldn’t use a little bit of help around the house?

4. Write a testimonial or referral for someone on social media/Yelp/Google/etc

Social media can be so toxic! Some people find it so easy to hide behind their keyboards and say hurtful things on social media or over text that they would never say in real life. Help to counteract this negativity and take a moment to say something about someone that’s really helped you out, even if you already said it to them personally.

5. Send a care package with homemade treats or art and a handwritten note

Imagine our surprise when our friend sent stickers that he’d made that looked just like a picture we’d taken while on vacation. It was a fun surprise that we get to play with years later.

6. Invite your friend, neighbor, or coworker with you on a scenic walk or hike

Getting outside of the daily grind can sometimes be hard and we come up with so many excuses why not to do it on our own. However when someone invites you to do something with them outside in the fresh air, take up the opportunity

7. Offer to help a friend with a task they’ve been putting off

You have a skill, they have a problem. Use your combined intelligence to help find a solution.

8. Give someone who doesn’t speak up much a voice or platform to share their thoughts and opinions

While there are those of us out there that have no problem spouting off and giving all the advice, opinions, personal stories, there are others of us that don’t. Provide a safe space for people who don’t get to be heard as often.

9. Shut up and listen

This is related to the point above. When you give someone else space to express their thoughts, you show them a respect that is palpable. Trust me, the gratitude will be reciprocated by the other person.

10. Send a text message expressing your gratitude

Compose a message out of the blue with no expectations or prerogative letting someone know that you care about them.

11. Send gratitude to nature and the world around you

Gratitude does not only have to go to a person, in fact, I’m of the belief that sending love and gratitude brings up the positive and loving energy around you. Gratitude shows on your skin, your expression, and your posture. Send gratitude without having to see the reaction it gets.

12. Love on a pet

Give a good rub to your dog/cat. If they allow for belly rubs, even better!

13. Give a friend or long distance family member a phone call just to check in

When was the last time you picked up the phone and called someone out of the blue? When was the last time you got a phone call out of the blue? No agenda. No ask. No feeling of duty. Just a call to say hello.

14. Smile a genuine smile at someone

It’s ok. They won’t think you’re a creep. And if they do – that’s ok, because you know your intent and it’s letting them know that you are appreciative of them, even if you don’t know them. Watch their body language. If it’s obvious that they don’t like it, stop, and be grateful that they let you know.

15. Be a shoulder to cry on

Let someone know that you’re a safe zone and that you’re grateful they trust you.

16. Thank someone for sharing something hurtful with you

Sometimes, this is best done silently, as it can be difficult to let someone know that you’re grateful if they’ve told you something hurtful. You can be grateful that they pointed out a trait you weren’t aware you had. You can also be grateful that they shared their true feelings and decide if they match your own.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many other ways to show gratitude, and they can be done without gifting, spending, or the expectation of reciprocation.

Of course, I did many of these things in my past, I just didn’t take the time to acknowledge that they were examples of gratitude.

Now, when I give a hug, it’s done with far more intention and warmth, (none of those weak one-armed partial hugs that I did as a teenager). I take time in my day to give gratitude to the people that were part of the lengthy process of getting food from farm to my table. I smile and wave at my neighbors and feel grateful that we can be near each other, even if I don’t know them.

Life has taken me on wild adventures, and I haven’t participated in a family Thanksgiving in nearly a decade now. I can say with confidence that I would love to sit down at that family table in a few weeks and share my gratitude with everyone. Especially to my mom and dad who have given me wings and have encouraged me to live the life I live, even if it means fewer holidays together. But I’m also so relieved that I’ve found and recognized more ways to share my gratitude each and every day throughout the year, not just around the Thanksgiving table.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of our gratitude throughout the day. That’s why we added it as a healthy habit to track in The Agile Life Plan 4-week kick-start free course. Try it out for yourself 🙂

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