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It’s not exactly a newsflash that gratitude is good for us.

Thanking people for their effort, expertise, or contribution generally gives them a warm feeling, often a warm feeling about us. And someone who knows they’re appreciated is more likely to continue being generous with that effort and expertise.

Also, acknowledging our blessings and benefits is a mood-booster for us. I’m one of many with a regular gratitude practice. Every morning I write “five things I’m grateful for today.” Yes, there are mornings when it takes some time to come up with all five.

As valuable as all of that is, it turns out there’s a way to amplify the benefits of gratitude. You might want to join me in experimenting with Gratitude 1-2-3.

The idea comes from UC Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center, where Emiliana Simon-Thomas recommends going beyond our usual “Hey, thanks a lot.”

Nothing wrong with that sort of generic thank you, of course. It’s fine, as far as it goes. And, it could be a richer experience for the thanker and the thankee.

So here’s the Gratitude 1-2-3 approach.

  1. Be specific about what you’re thanking them for.

A generic “thanks much” is okay. We get more benefit from it—and so do they—when we say exactly what we appreciate. On a radio show with psych professor David Feldman, Simon-Thomas said specificity puts the two of us in a shared mental space.

  1. Acknowledge the effort they made.

They went out of their way for you, right? Simon-Thomas says letting them know you’re fully aware of their effort makes a favor-doer feel validated and understood.

  1. Describe the benefit you got.

This third step is especially important. They already know what they did and they’re aware of the effort they put into it. They may not know the full impact it had on you. So, this step will be meaningful to them.

And of course, it all means a lot for you.

There’s plenty of good reason to amp up our expression of gratitude. “If you’re a more grateful person,” Simon-Thomas points out, “your physical health is better, your mental health is better, you’re more resilient to stress.”

Plus, when challenges come up, as they do for all of us, grateful people are more likely to learn and grow from them.

Taking a shot at it …

Thank you for reading this article today. It took some effort to find it in your inbox and find time to spend with me. I know attention is a scarce resource and it’s a huge compliment that you’ve given me yours. It fortifies and delights me.

That was pretty quick, wasn’t it? One concern I had, reading about Gratitude 1-2-3, was that it would lead to a bunch of blather. (They don’t call me the Queen of Concise for nothing.)

But the three-part thank-you doesn’t have to drag on and on. Simon-Thomas says with practice, “you can get through it in 15 or 16 seconds.”

What do you say? Are you up for trying this with me? Give it a go with a colleague or a client or someone at home and post a comment to let us know how it goes.


Thanks to Minda Zetlin at Inc. who quoted David Feldman’s blog referring to his radio interview with Emiliana Simon-Thomas. This is how good ideas spread …