11/19/2012 11:02 am ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

Thanksgiving: Are You Really Truly Grateful? Prove It!


Here comes Thanksgiving. Are you ready? I'm not talking about making a turkey here but perhaps giving you a chance to think about whether you're being a turkey when it comes to being thankful. Are you really truly grateful? With today's challenges it's understandable if you spend more time worrying than you do in being thankful for what you already have. But how would you rate yourself when it comes to spending a moment each day to appreciate the blessings you already have?

I'm better than I've been in the past, but far from perfect. It's so darn easy to get trapped by thoughts of what's wrong and how I'm going to get it all done. All I can say is the more I get out of my head and look around at the blessings in my life, the happier and more peaceful I am. For example, I'm grateful to those of you who wrote to send prayers when Tim was ill a couple of months ago -- thank you! I'm happy to say that he's getting stronger every day and to look at him you'd never know he's just had his second bout with lung cancer.

Yes, it's vital to be grateful, but I believe that unless you express that appreciation you're not really truly grateful. I'm talking about saying "thanks!" as often as possible. One thing I've learned in my long years is that people do not feel acknowledged and appreciated. Inside most of us is a quiet longing for a pat on the back or a word of genuine thanks. It looks to me as if this is a dying art. Before you get all defensive on me, look at the other side of the coin for a moment. Answer these questions yes or no -- your first response, please.

  • Do people say "thank you" to you as much as you think they should?
  • When you give a gift, do you often receive a written thank you note -- an email, a phone call, anything?
  • When you do something right, do people say thanks?
  • Do you feel appreciated by others?

Uncomfortable as it is to admit, I've been carrying on a judgmental inner dialogue about how infrequently people say thanks these days. Things are sure changing! Not like it used to be. What's with this younger generation?

Last summer we hosted a fabulous summer block party for about 40 guests, and folks loved it. Most all were appreciative as they said their goodnights. However, only our next-door neighbor called the next day to say how much he loved it. Just a two-minute call, but it made a big difference to us.

Maybe it shouldn't matter, but it does. When you send someone a gift, how does it feel when you don't receive a note or call? Recently I had a conversation with a family member who told me that I shouldn't always expect a thank you note because the point was to give from my heart for the pure joy of seeing the happiness in the recipient. Can't argue with that -- of course, he's right. But...

Your choice, but expressing gratitude by saying thanks matters to others... and to you. It's so easy these days with text, voicemail, e-cards, and little "thank you" note cards readily available. In his book Thanks! Robert A. Emmons tells us that:

People who regularly practice grateful thinking and action increase their "set-point" for happiness by as much as 25 percent.

So who cares about what "they" do? Let go of your judgment about how unappreciated you are, and get better about the "say thanks!" habit. I've always tried hard to practice what Mom taught me, but I doubt I'll ever catch up with the way she lived. I need to do better, and I want to do better.

The great thing about expressing your gratitude is that it's something we can DO something about. Waiting for others to be thankful and blaming them for not being that way makes no sense. In this world of distractions, overwhelm and stress that have us feeling we have no control over our lives, here's something we can do.

Start by remembering the wisdom of the ages:

  • "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." -- the Bible
  • "Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way." -- a Native American prayer
  • "Reflect on the kindness of all beings." -- core Buddhist teaching

There are people in our lives who have made a big contribution to our success and been generous to us in many ways over the years. We may not have connected with some of them for ages. How would it feel to find them and share your gratitude with them?

Say what you like about Facebook, LinkedIn and other cloud software systems, but there's no excuse these days. Any one of these people would love to hear from you. How about about generating a "You've just made my day!" feeling in someone?

Here are a few steps, any one one of which you can take in five minutes or less -- as soon as you finish reading this article and before you rush to the next thing:

  • List five people who have made a big difference to you.
  • Write one overdue thank you note.
  • Ask yourself: What gifts have I received and not said "thank you" for? Write down your responses.
  • Schedule a "thanks" action for tomorrow.

It's all right there in the word: Thanksgiving. While being really truly grateful in your heart is a marvelous thing, what really matters is that you say it out loud to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The happiness and joy you'll create is beyond your wildest imagination. I promise.

Please leave a comment below or write to me: I'd love to hear your ideas about giving thanks.

For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

For more about Best Year Yet, click here.