Gratitude and Appreciation for Stress Management

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

Let people know you appreciate them and you will both be happier!. Image Source/Getty Images

Do the people in your life know how much you appreciate what they do for you? (Are you even fully aware of it yourself?) We have "National Teacher Appreciation Day" and "Employee Appreciation Day" and other types of "appreciation days," but we don't have days when we appreciate people for giving up a seat on the bus for someone who needs it more, people who let us into a busy lane of traffic when they'd rather speed past, or people who have sacrificed to make our lives better.

We all know that it feels good to be appreciated, but we may not know all of the benefits of appreciation, both for the person feeling appreciated and for the person who is offering the appreciation! Here are some of the benefits of both:

  • Those who feel more appreciated tend to have more positive attitudes and show greater levels of motivation to keep "earning" that appreciation. Think about it: if you work hard to make someone happy and they don't appreciate it, aren't you more likely to figure your efforts don't matter, and give up? And if someone truly appreciates you, aren't you more likely to decide that this in itself is reason enough to continue whatever it was that they appreciated? Expressing your appreciation to someone who deserves it is good for them, and for you.
  • Those who maintain a sense of gratitude enjoy many benefits for health and wellness, both physical and emotional. (Read about some of these benefits, and how to cultivate gratitude.)
  • Research shows that we love receiving, but we gain even more benefits from giving; exchanging appreciation puts us in one role or the other, with benefits all around! (​Read about the benefits of altruism.)

Expressing appreciation also brings stress relief in a few different ways. It strengthens social bonds, and there are many benefits that come with strong social ties, including greater resilience toward stress.

Feeling and expressing gratitude for the great people in your life can also help you to be more aware of the great resources they are for you, and those who feel they have more resources in life tend to feel less stressed by challenges that come along—they feel more in control of what they face, and more able to rise to the challenges they encounter, all of which reduces feelings of stress. Finally, people who are feeling optimistic and relaxed tend to be more resilient to stress than those who are upset, frustrated, and already have their stress response triggered; feeling greater levels of happiness and wellbeing puts you in a better frame of mind to meet challenges that present themselves throughout the day.

There are several effective and enjoyable ways to express appreciation and gratitude. Performing a "gratitude visit"--writing someone a letter of appreciation and then hand-delivering it to them, reading it in front of them before you leave--is something that is often recommended by positive psychologists as an exercise that brings elevated feelings of happiness and wellbeing that last for weeks for both parties involved, and create positive memories that last a lifetime. If you would like to gain the benefits of showing appreciation for the people in your life, here is a list of effective ways to put gratitude into action in your life.​