|Examine how the related spiritual assets of gratitude and appreciation can be cultivated and utilized in community settings to improve community welfare.|
This and other sections in the Tool Box chapter on Spirituality and Community Building (Chapter 28) have been written with the support and contributions of experts connected with the Charter for Compassion International. For more information about the Charter and its work, visit www.charterforcompassion.org.
The Power of Gratitude and Appreciation
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Gratitude and appreciation are important in community life and in community building because they bring us into positive and direct relationship with ourselves and others. Feeling gratitude and expressing appreciation opens our hearts and lifts our hands to the tasks before us. These qualities are spiritual; they elevate us into a realm of higher achievement and connectivity. They bring people together as they amplify our collaborative efforts. And they improve community outcomes.
Our emphasis here will be to look at gratitude and appreciation from a community builder’s perspective, as well as from a broader management and organizational view. In a world so extensively focused on technology and financial resources, are the benefits of gratitude and appreciation worth the time and the effort? If so, how might we build these spiritual qualities into our own lives and work?
In this Tool Box section, we will define and explain how shared gratitude and appreciation can enliven the process and the effectiveness of building community. We will explore how gratitude and appreciation deepen relationship, and also look at how they can generate opportunity, open our hearts to surprise, sustain resiliency, and support innovation. We will further consider how practices of gratitude and appreciation can build participation in community efforts, by increasing citizen, volunteer, employee, and funder capacity, thereby leading to more enduring and sustainable community accomplishments.
Keeping cultural contexts in mind, we will then focus on how to develop and demonstrate gratitude and appreciation. What are some personal and organizational practices along these lines that sustain us, individually and collectively? How might you apply them in your own setting? What might be their limitations? And are there situations where other approaches might yield more effective results? For we do agree that gratitude and appreciation by themselves are ordinarily not sufficient in community work, even though they are almost always desirable, if not also necessary.
Toward the end, we will look at some of the difficulties, pitfalls, and general challenges of applying gratitude and appreciation into our lives and our work. Many of these can be overcome, yet no application is perfect; we must accept that our efforts may sometimes fall short. Even so, we can still benefit from appreciating those efforts, even though they may be imperfect. .
And finally, in a separate supplement to this main section under Tools, we include descriptions of two application strategies – Appreciative Inquiry and Appreciative Assessment – that community builders can use to promote gratitude and appreciation in their own community work.
The two of us writing this section bring different perspectives and backgrounds to the task. Suzanne Hale’s career has focused primarily on program design and delivery in a broad range of settings, from Canadian indigenous communities in northern British Columbia and Yukon to urban, bilingual community centers in Ontario and Quebec. Mary Ella Keblusek has worked primarily with business and nonprofit organizations in the United States, Nigeria, Canada, India, and Switzerland. Though our work settings have been different, both of us have come to value the importance of gratitude and appreciation as a foundation for community building.
As experienced community program developers, gratitude and appreciation are essential to our work. They extend our personal capacities, enrich our relationships in community, and allow us to further integrate our program goals. Feeling gratitude and appreciation shifts our perspective from single, isolated individuals into an expanding flow of relationship and unfolding possibility. Where fear or self-doubt would hold us back, feeling gratitude and appreciation help move us forward.
One (of Many) Examples of Gratitude and Appreciation in Action
"I (Suzanne) was hired into a community-based training program. My job was to build participation with the trainees, in collaboration with two team leads.
"My initial attitude in doing this job was one of gratitude. I was very thankful to be involved in this worthy project, training two teams of workers who in turn trained mothers in play-based learning games to share with their families and preschool children. But relatively quickly, I learned that one of the team leads felt that she had wanted and merited the position I had been freshly hired to fulfill. Initially, she was not inclined to work with me, or to support my initiatives.
"At times, as the program rolled out, offering my leadership met with more resistance; stalemates made working together difficult. However, I learned to set some boundaries and focus where I could find a positive foothold, actively supporting what was working, and recognizing positive performance as it occurred. Each time a member of our team contributed positively, I showed appreciation by directly acknowledging their contribution. This was true for all team members, even those not inclined to offer appreciation back.
"My goal was to build and maintain participation, not to engage in personal conflicts. And over three years our project succeeded – both in its rate of participation and our overall achievement of goals. Showing gratitude and appreciation, and focusing on shared goals and responsibilities helped our group to reach these goals. We parted company with respect and satisfaction for the overall positive results we had achieved together.
"Learning to focus on the positive, and not engage in power struggles was a valuable lesson that modeled and became a foundation of resilience and productivity."
Defining Gratitude and Appreciation
As we get started, it’s important to consider exactly what we mean by the terms “gratitude” and “appreciation.” Many of us use these words interchangeably. But there is a useful distinction to be made between them. The Oxford Dictionary online defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” On the other hand, appreciation is defined as the “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.” Fundamentally, then, we see “gratitude” as a more general internal state of being, while “appreciation” tends to represent the more particular ways we choose to express that gratitude – through our thoughts, our attitudes, and our external words and actions. Thus, gratitude is the inner foundation from which appreciation can develop and prosper.
One reason this distinction is important is that it would be possible to be grateful for something without truly appreciating it. For example, as community workers, we might be grateful for having a stable and fulfilling job, but not really take the time to consider and appreciate the nature of the people we are serving, or the community systems that make our job possible.
Appreciation, though, can help us become more aware of the source of our gratitude. We can increase this awareness in many ways; one recommended practice is to consciously reflect on the specific reasons for our gratitude. For example, we might be grateful for a beautiful day, and ask ourselves, “What is it about this day that makes me feel it is so beautiful?” Then we can notice and appreciate those elements that we particularly appreciate – perhaps the warmth of the sun (or the soft beauty of the snow), the gentle breeze blowing, birds that are singing, or the people and animals alongside us who are also enjoying the day.
Appreciation itself may take many forms. It may be experienced within oneself – as in the “beautiful day” example above – or demonstrated outwardly in words or actions. As examples, recognition, encouragement, and validation are more focused types of appreciation, frequently connected to a particular action or behavior. Alternatively, appreciation may be seen in a broader perspective as showing gratitude for who an individual or group is (rather than focusing on what they do). This approach can contribute to building loyalty, respect, and a positive group culture. Both approaches to showing appreciation are useful and necessary.
Regardless of the form it takes, the act of showing appreciation, or simply knowing why we are sharing it, results in a deepening of our understanding and experience of gratitude, and ideally becomes a conscious choice about how that gratitude might best be expressed. Sharing appreciation brings us into contact and relationship with others. In this section, we hope to offer a range of choices and experiences for you to draw upon, so that you may learn to develop and express more gratitude and appreciation in your own life and work.
In developing our own understanding of gratitude and the ongoing renewal of gratefulness, we have been influenced by the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast and his colleagues at www.gratefulness,org, which features many gratitude-based resources and practices to share. A brief video includes several examples of shared gratitude stemming from this work.
The Importance of Gratitude and Appreciation in Community Building
If you are helping to build communities, you are likely to be a busy person. Each day is full of tasks to accomplish and decisions to make. Can my organization really afford to buy a new computer? How can I get the word out about our new project? Do we have the time to attend a conference? Is the copy machine finally fixed? These and so many other tasks are the everyday stuff of community life and work. They have their importance, and they can’t really be ignored.
Gratitude and appreciation, by contrast, are not daily demands. They will not, by themselves, keep the lights on or get the staff paid. Although gratitude and appreciation may seem abstract and postponable, or even dispensable, they are just as important in their own way.
Why? We’ll offer several reasons.
- Gratitude and appreciation both bring us into deeper contact with our communities. Being able to focus even momentarily on what is working and what we are thankful for can lift us up and out of our single-mindedness and into a more integrated sense of connection with the physical world, and the community around us.
- In work and life, we seek more than material rewards. Studies have shown that in for-profit organizations, money is not the primary component of employee satisfaction. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor found that “the number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated” (64%; more than any other reason). Similarly and strikingly, a Gallup poll found that almost 70% of American employees state that they receive no praise or recognition in the workplace in a given year.
- The importance of appreciation is even more relevant for community organizations and groups that rely on volunteers, where staff are typically unpaid or paid less than in business enterprises. It has also become apparent that, in general, younger generations of workers are less and less motivated by money, and are increasingly prioritizing social benefits such as appreciation and recognition to provide job satisfaction.
- Sharing gratitude typically provides both the giver and the receiver with a sense of well-being. And this may create a gratitude cycle – one where the person who receives our gratitude extends their gratitude or appreciation back to us, and/or out to others. Each person is thus enriched, as they expand their expression and reception of gratitude.
Have you noticed this within your own workplace or community? Why not try it out and share your appreciation with someone, about some part of your work or community life? What happened as a result? Did sharing appreciation affect you positively? Did you notice if it affected your environment positively? How did the other person receive your recognition? For our work in community building, offering and receiving authentic appreciation can build trust, a sense of belonging, and a desire for inclusion and participation in a program or project.
In community building – and within groups and organizations – gratitude and appreciation can enhance interactions. They can bring us into positive contact with others. They help create deeper bonds of relationship, motivating individuals and teams, and unifying groups toward a shared purpose. Whether we are sharing insights, experiences, or conversations, expressions of gratitude and appreciation help to build trust between people and groups. And by sharing stories or acts of gratitude and appreciation, we draw from our past to illuminate a brighter future.
To further illustrate these points, Suzanne tells this story of her beginning to work in a brand new community, showing how a simple act of gratitude brought a new wave of participation into a fledgling community program, and highlighting the relationship between gratitude and appreciation and program accomplishment.
“I was hired to create a drop-in learning center in a small indigenous community in northern British Columbia, Canada. I had no experience working with indigenous communities. I didn’t know anyone in the community. I had no real ideas or strategies about how to kindle participation. I felt alone, and a little overwhelmed by how little I knew. And so I felt a little anxious about how to start a drop-in learning center.
“Luckily, both the Chief, and also the Education Coordinator, shared the community’s ideals and vision with me, about why creating the Learning Center was important. How to create it, however, was an unfolding mystery. If people didn’t come, if they didn’t drop in to the Learning Center, our program would not succeed. But why would people drop in?
“The Learning Center was to be housed in an old utility trailer, a long, brown-paneled tube. It was full of dusty furniture and books. There was no running water or bathroom. The furnace was loud, but it mostly worked, an important feature in the sub-arctic environment of northern British Columbia.
“We cleared and sorted it out, and brought in new books, shelves, and posters. But there was still something missing. Shine. And it was up to me to create it. So, as a matter of course, on hands and knees, I washed and waxed the old scratched-up floor. It did shine, and that was a relief. It felt very important to welcome the community with some polish and care.
“And although I didn’t know it at the time, that’s when the people began to notice something new was happening. They began to talk; they got the idea that our program was serious. Word spread, and soon, before we officially opened, community members started dropping in to find out for themselves what the Learning Center could become. First came the children; then their parents, aunts, and grandmothers started dropping in too. I welcomed them. I was entirely delighted and relieved by their visits.
“This was the very beginning of our program momentum. Through the expression of our mutual gratitude and appreciation, we began to build a relationship and the foundations for our program, together.”
Gratitude and appreciation were key factors in this example. But more generally, our key point is that meeting a community with gratitude and appreciation, together with openness and curiosity, gives us a basis for forming relationships. This helps build momentum towards a greater, more authentic, collective purpose. Direct relationships with the community integrate programs. They are essential because they help to build content, process, participation, and success in a natural manner.
We can summarize our meaning this way:
- Gratitude and appreciation
- Participation and problem-solving
- Positive community outcomes, through innovation
The presence of one factor leads to another, in a natural progression. At the beginning, both gratitude and appreciation provide a foundation for community building to occur. The state of gratefulness (feeling gratitude) may also open our minds to learning new things, and listening to new points of view.
To highlight our general theme further, take a moment to look at this lively but also research-based video, “An Experiment in Gratitude,” which concludes: “One of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you show.”
Situations Favoring the Promotion of Gratitude and Appreciation
Almost any situation can benefit from the expression of gratitude and appreciation. Here are some particular examples and situations in which sharing of gratitude and appreciation can make a positive community difference.
- Recognition for the food we are about to eat: to the Creator, and to those who grew it and prepared the food we are sharing
- Expressions of love to our families, or feelings of belonging with people we value in our community and beyond
- Appreciation for relationships: for people being able to give thanks to service providers; for knowing where to take their challenges, questions, and issues; and for knowing that they can bring their concerns forward in the first place, to have them heard and potentially addressed
- Appreciation for colleagues, or gratitude for having been mentored or shown by community members what contributes to building community
- Celebrations for group or individual achievements, ranging from completion of training, to fundraising, to building or creating new and improved community resources
- Acknowledgment for acts of service, kindness, dedication, or generosity we have received or given, perhaps unexpectedly, from or to others in community
- Humility and appreciation for the challenges or confusion of unresolved situations that we seek to understand and illuminate
- Interest and appreciation for the mystery and mastery of how the world and how our lives are unfolding
This is only a partial list of favorable situations. Based on your own experience, are there other reasons and contexts for sharing gratitude and appreciation that you would like to add?
How to Use Gratitude and Appreciation in Community Building
If gratitude and appreciation have such great value in a wide variety of situations – and we believe they do – then we should learn more about how to incorporate these powerful spiritual assets into our community work. How do we do it? That’s the main focus of this heading.
The Cycle of Gratitude and Appreciation
To open our discussion, it’s helpful to note that gratitude and appreciation energize many separate stages of program development and community building. The following diagram illustrates them. It takes the form of a cycle, moving clockwise; however, the cycle’s order is adaptable and can be varied according to a particular situation. From our perspective, starting the process on the top of the diagram, with an authentic welcome of all participants – including residents, volunteers, employees, and funders – is a good place to begin.
By using the cycle in the diagram as a framework, and moving clockwise around it from the top, here is what these program stages might look like in actual community practice:
- When people come to your program, welcome them! Whether there are two people or twenty, welcome them. Listen to them; listen to their ideas and experience; learn from them. Acknowledge the value of their experience. Allow yourself to be influenced by the people you are serving in community. When people feel welcome, they are more likely to return; and they may bring their friends. (We elaborate on the power of welcoming later on in this section.)
- As people start to engage in your program’s activities, recognize and appreciate their efforts and skills. Acknowledge the abilities and perspectives they bring to your program. This also means being open to learning how your participants might engage in activities differently than you. Include a variety of approaches and experiences. Try something new. Be gracious in observing differences.
- Appreciate and be guided by the cultural dynamics of the community you serve. This means being sensitive to the seasons, foods, events, and resources available in your community at various times of the year. Learn from the people around you. Adapt your own approach to reflect the interests, resources, and aptitudes of your program participants, volunteers, funders, and other stakeholders.
- Engage in both planned and spontaneous acts of recognition and appreciation for what you have achieved together after several weeks or months of meetings. In addition, you can incorporate both formal and informal acts of gratitude and appreciation for each other, for your program, or for something that you share. Such actions can occur regularly, and become part of your program’s normal operation.
- As participants start to become more comfortable with each other, and problem areas come up, innovate. Do something different. Keep getting participant feedback, and then create something to delight or surprise someone, somewhere. Take a small risk in addressing a priority of the group. Evaluate the results. Modify as needed. Do it again.
- Invite both planned and spontaneous feedback. After your program has been operating for a while, evaluate and assess how things have been going, where you have gotten to, and where you are going next. Use Appreciative Inquiry and ask, for example, “What did you enjoy about this activity?”, or “What surprised you when we tried this…?” (See more details on Appreciative Inquiry in a supplement to this section under Tools.) Ask other important questions about your project. If you wish to influence your group, allow them to influence you.
- Give thanks for the opportunities your program has enjoyed – such as the opportunities of getting to know each other and learning together; the opportunities of embarking on new adventures and having new experiences together; the opportunities to be safe and comfortable together.
- Celebrate, with awards or other kinds of recognition for the expertise and successes you have gained individually and collectively. Your celebrations can be as formal as giving out engraved certificates, or as informal as a pizza party or meeting in a new spot. People almost always like to be recognized, whether in large ways or small. Invite a sister or brother program to come and join you. Share some highlights or challenges as you build partnerships. Go on a group outing to discover a new community resource or place of interest. Share your discoveries together.
With this overview as a background, let’s continue to identify some other specific ways you as a community builder can use and apply gratitude and appreciation in your own community work. Some of these strategies focus on times when you are already familiar with the community setting and well integrated within it. At other times, though, you may be a relative newcomer, or just starting out. We’ll consider both types of situations.
When You Are Familiar with the Community Setting
(when you have existing relationships within a community)
First and foremost, in almost all circumstances, gratitude and appreciation are expressed by communication – meaning the simple acts of talking to people, visiting them, or taking the time to have a conversation without any specific agenda.
If you are familiar with your community setting, here are some examples of communication strategies and activities you might use to share and promote gratitude and appreciation:
- With the consent of community members, take photos or videos of people while they are building community. Before you begin, ask first for their permission. Print your images in collages or postcards to share in your community. Send one of your postcards as a thank-you to people for their contributions to a project, activity, or event.
- Take on-site before and after shots of building or project development.
- Share physical or mental images of what is challenging your project, while you are in the process of building community. Create art inspired by your goals.
- Send out brief progress reports with visuals, acknowledging contributions, accomplishments, and future plans.
- Show and tell people specifically how their contributions will be used in the project, and how they will expand or deepen the project’s level of success. Include photos of specific contributions as they appear. Say “thank you” to individuals personally, publicly, or privately by e-mail, social media, or written cards.
- Write and send notes of gratitude to people who might not have been sufficiently acknowledged in previous events. Tell them specifically how their contributions helped you.
One illustrative case in point comes from the section editor’s experience:
“My former colleague Barbara used to help organize meetings of a human services coalition. She carried a packet of ordinary postcards with her, and would use them to mail handwritten notes of appreciation for something that happened at the meeting. (This was some while ago, before e-mail and texting were quite as well established.)
“Barbara might write something like ‘I was glad to see you today, even though I know you weren’t feeling well,’ or ‘Thank you for bringing along your friend,’ or ‘I really appreciated it when you came forward to volunteer for [X].’
“One might suspect that she was simply on the lookout for appreciative things to say; maybe so; but that does not mean that she wasn’t sincere in her expression. If you got to know Barbara better, you came to realize that this was basically her way of being in the world. She was also the person who always got up early to bake muffins at home to bring to the meeting, because that was just the kind of person she was.”
- Create a poem, a cheer, a skit, a song, a dance, or a rap that acknowledges people and program partners. Perform it in a variety of venues in your community.
- Host a storytelling or artistic evening where participants share stories of people or events that they are grateful for.
- Use drawing, painting, or sculpture as a way to express gratitude for participants, or for something that has been achieved by your project.
- Choose a theme, invite people to join you, and create some art to celebrate. Then have an art show.
- Feature local businesses and sponsors in a public thank you, through print or social media.
- Create and distribute press releases, in either traditional or social media or both, with photos and images to celebrate and acknowledge project milestones, donors, and contributors.
- Host an evening where people play the role of a real person who they are inspired by and grateful for – it could be a community member or leader, a national figure or celebrity, a diplomat or politician, or a family member, ancestor, or fictional character. Or alternatively, if you can, invite the actual person to the event. (These “gratitude nights” have frequently been held as part of school classes; their effects are often quite powerful.)
- Create a memorable event for your program or for your community to recognize contributions and achievements, with keepsakes that have a practical use, such as reusable beverage cups, mini-flashlights, carry bags, or something else unique to your setting.
- Alternatively, create a memorable event without any keepsakes. Donate the money you would have spent on keepsakes to another community partner or group.
- Choose a sister organization in or near your community, and honor its work. Fundraise on its behalf. Share its promotional resources, and its successes.
- Find another organization that shares some of the same challenges as your own. Brainstorm strategies to address these issues together. Implement and celebrate outcomes and successes. Evaluate and continue in developing innovative practices. Invite other groups to pair up and share their work as well.
What are the benefits here? By using or adapting any of these communication ideas, or others of your own design, you are likely to find that these expressions of gratitude and appreciation create energetic flow and excitement. They foster a sense of belonging. And they challenge and erode stagnant areas or unnecessary boundaries as well.
Within institutions and larger organizations, this may mean opening up the information process and allowing for the free flow of information. Don’t withhold information based on hierarchy; instead, inform people about issues that affect them, and consult with them about the best resolution. Direct consultation with stakeholders may offer new strategies as well as other major benefits to programs or organizations.
When You Are New to the Community Setting
Community workers generally create and deliver programs based on community participation. Typically, they have prior connections with the community before they begin; this helps to promote and build needed involvement.
But sometimes, we may enter communities as outsiders, without many local relationships. If you can then cultivate a sense of gratitude and openness within your own mind, you may generate and benefit from opportunities with other local practitioners and from the community itself. This can move a sole community worker from isolation and separation into expansion, discovery, and opportunity for community collaborations. In short, your personal conviction and practice of gratitude can set the stage for future benefits to come.
Here are some ideas for how and when to use, develop, and share gratitude and appreciation when you are coming into the community from the outside.
For individual community workers:
- Center yourself to overcome any of your own feelings of stress, isolation, or separation. For example, take a few moments at the beginning of your day to name what you are grateful for.
- When you meet new people – community members, employees, volunteers, or funders – show your appreciation for the opportunity to get to know them. Take the time to be with them and to get to know their community. Show your interest; engage your own curiosity. Ask questions about their experience; ask for their opinions and guidance. Listen and learn graciously.
- When taking on challenges, or developing new strategies, or when you are problem solving, innovating or seeking to innovate, reflect on the community members themselves. What is unique about them? What do you appreciate about them? Where have they shown resiliency or innovation? How can you learn more about and from the people who live in the community you seek to serve?
- When consulting with the community, invite community members to share what they are grateful for. This may include photographs, memorabilia, maps, posters, food, or other tangible items. Ask a couple of people to share in this way, at each group session. Allow some of these moments and expressions of thought to be integrated into the discussion.
- When people are getting to know each other, or coming together – or when people may be experiencing fatigue or burnout – share food, flowers, art, or something you love as a sign of your gratitude and appreciation for them.
- Become intentional about your gratitude practices. Set aside some time to journal, walk, sing, dance, e-mail, drum, write letters, paint, and photograph images of what you are grateful for. Mix it up a little. Keep your expressions of gratitude fresh and alive. (See also 11 tips on gratitude journaling.)
For organizations, networks, and funders:
- In conducting a brainstorming session with various partners, ask each participant what they recognize as strengths in your program, or another group or partner.
- To enrich or increase trust, especially when trust is necessary – for example, when you are building upon earlier innovation, challenges, or pioneering new initiatives – share stories of gratitude that may have come from lessons learned, crisis and innovations in the past.
- To deal with a crisis or situation when there is no planned strategy, exchange stories of gratitude and appreciation as a way to stimulate the development of a strategy or solution. (See discussion of Appreciative Inquiry under Tools.)
- In transitioning from a crisis, or when you are refocusing and regrouping, ask people to state directly some of the things they are thankful for.
Developing and Promoting Gratitude and Appreciation
It’s been essential for us to show how community workers like yourself can use and apply gratitude and appreciation in your own real-world settings. But that’s only part of the story. It’s equally essential to show how gratitude and appreciation can be developed in the first place.
All of us may have the capacity to express gratitude and appreciation. However, their expression, and their development, are not automatic. Like most other abilities, expressing gratitude or appreciation is strengthened through practice. A variety of gratitude practices help people and groups to relax and open up to each other, and let a group’s positive qualities shine through.
What are these practices? And how can we use them to develop and promote gratitude and appreciation in our own work? Many possibilities are available to us. Here are a few:
Beginning with Oneself: Self-Care
One basic approach to developing and promoting gratitude and appreciation is to begin with yourself. The healthy practice of self-care creates a foundation for your capacity to show gratitude to and appreciate others.
Several types of self-care practices will be familiar to many readers – for example, grounding oneself, or taking the time to slow down with meditation or prayer, both of which can take multiple forms. In addition for some, simply walking outside in nature or being in the garden will stimulate a relaxed sense of gratitude and appreciation. Alternatively, you could volunteer to help children, seniors, refugees, or others who are new to your community or country. Or you might intentionally cultivate an open social presence that is shared with others.
Let’s look at some individual practices that may be less well known. The practices below are useful to develop and strengthen self-care, gratitude for oneself, and appreciation for others in a variety of settings. They can be used as personal practices for those involved in community building, as practices to facilitate in groups, and as practices to teach other people.
The cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien describes a long-standing tradition of self-acknowledgment common to parts of Africa and to Oceanic societies. Referred to as cradling work, it is devoted to acknowledging oneself and “staying connected to the good, true, and beautiful aspects of one’s nature.” In her book The Four-Fold Way, Arrien describes cradling work as a four-part practice, which begins by lying on one’s back and placing both hands over the heart. One then proceeds in silence to:
- Acknowledge the character qualities that one appreciates about oneself.
- Acknowledge one’s own strengths and talents.
- Acknowledge the contributions one has made in the past and is making in the present.
- Acknowledge the love one has given and is giving, and the love one has received and is receiving.
As practiced in indigenous cultures, cradling work was considered to be most effective if performed three times a day – in the morning, afternoon, and at night.
This is a simple exercise that can easily be practiced daily, or whenever you feel a desire to connect more deeply in gratitude.
- Set everything aside and sit quietly for a minute; see if you can connect with your own heart center.
- Place your hand on your heart. Imagine inhaling unconditional love and acceptance for yourself. Whatever other messages may come in, see if you can continue to bring your focus back to yourself.
- Give yourself gratitude and appreciation… you who work so hard and mean so well.
- Imagine yourself as a small child; see that pure sweet essence of the innocent one within. Imagine holding yourself tenderly. On every in-breath, breathe in unconditional love for yourself, embracing yourself as a loving parent might gently hold their child – with tender, pure love. See yourself holding yourself, cherishing yourself. Call yourself a name of endearment, as if you are your own beloved.
- Close by expressing your gratitude and appreciation to yourself.
This is a great practice for the start and/or end of the day. One approach is to start by asking yourself: What am I grateful for? Then, in a journal, list at least three to five items each day; try to be as detailed as possible. So not just, “I am grateful for this beautiful day,” but “I am grateful for the way the sun warms my skin and melts away any cares when I sit on the deck at the end of the day.” Go beyond simply listing “Health,” and instead possibly consider “My able-bodiedness that enables me to continue living in my split-level home, managing the stairs several times daily.” Not just “My children,” but “The loving connection I share with my daughter and how we so easily shared, laughed, and brainstormed together for over an hour on the phone today.”
As you begin to notice more details of your daily life, perhaps through your journal, savor them, breathe them in, and allow the feelings of gratitude and appreciation to permeate your mind, body, and spirit. Allow this practice to spill over into the day, so that you begin to notice more sources of joy and gratitude all around you. Take at least 30 seconds to savor, breathe, and drink in moments of gratitude whenever they arise – so, for example, go beyond just glancing at the lovely roses blooming near your house; take time to really notice them, and also to notice how you are appreciating them.
Micro-Moments of Love and Connection
In using this practice, allow your mind to review the events of the day. Try to recall three micro-moments of your deepest sense of intimacy and connection. See if you can find positive moments that were especially rewarding and meaningful to you, even if very brief. They could be a smile between you and a stranger, petting your dog, hugging a friend, or a caring glance from a co-worker.
As you write down these moments in your journal (or merely note them in your mind as they occur), take 30 seconds or more to re-create and savor each one, allowing the feelings the recollection stimulates to permeate your entire being. This practice of attention and savoring will sensitize you to attract more experiences of this nature and add to your gratitude and appreciation, as well as to the love in your life.
Here’s how one practitioner has summarized the value of micro-moments, and gratitude practices in general:
“Sometimes we shut down in the face of suffering. We don’t feel anything, nor are we inclined to do anything about it. Gratitude practice is one powerful tool that serves as an antidote and allows us to move forward.
“By recalling any fortunate circumstance of our life, or a person who has helped us in any major or minor way, we can transform our worldview from one of helplessness and contraction to one of ease and quiet connectedness. From this place of balanced clarity, the actions we take in our daily lives have a greater potential to affect positive change both in ourselves and in the world.”
Developing Gratitude and Appreciation in Groups
Gratitude and appreciation can certainly be cultivated by the individual self-care practices we have described, and by other individual practices too. In addition, gratitude and appreciation can be fostered in groups directly.
For example, when beginning to work with a new community group, participants may not know each other; they may have serious questions or burning issues; they may feel skeptical, or even hostile. But sharing moments of gratitude and appreciation during their interactions can lessen reservations or defuse any tensions as their relationship grows. And reflecting on why and what people are grateful for within the group can extend group members’ awareness and trust of each other.
One theme worth emphasizing here is that of authentic welcome. As community workers, we meet people on a daily basis. Do we truly welcome them? Do we extend ourselves to them with an open sense of appreciation for the opportunity to learn from them? The specific ways we might welcome people into our workplace, our home, and our community reflects back and tells those people how welcome they truly are. And when people are actively welcomed in a group, sincerely and warmly, it becomes much more likely for gratitude and appreciation to be felt and expressed all around – both by those being welcomed, and by the welcomers too.
The related story just below brings out the power of authentic welcome in practice.
“At work, we would start our monthly department meetings with a spontaneous listing of what went well or share something that people were proud of. This always brought a sense of momentum and lightness to our meetings. It was a strong affirmation that we were making positive changes with our work. It was a good time to learn from staff about what they were working on, since our department offered many programs in different locations. And it was a time when we could show gratitude and appreciation toward each other.
“One day, our busy manager proposed that we end this sharing during our meeting, because we had more pressing information to deal with. Could we not just share good news on coffee break? This felt like a huge loss. So we explained why we wanted to keep our positive reporting ritual, and what it meant to our team. Sharing and reporting our good news was a major component of our program success. Our manager came to agree; our appreciation and our advocacy changed her mind. We were able to continue our shared practice of appreciation.”
Here are some ideas for creating authentic welcome in a group, as well as in many other community programs and community settings:
- Greet people warmly and learn more about their motivation for coming to the meeting or event. What are they interested in? Why might they have come? A welcome greeting and affirmation will also increase the likelihood of participation later on.
- Introduce people to others who may share their interests, talents, goals, or other similarities.
- Include these interests in the discussion, and acknowledge their connections to other issues as they unfold.
- Smile and visibly acknowledge people in the discussion.
- Share one’s own interests and discoveries within the meeting, while being responsive to other points of view.
- Pay careful attention to the physical environment. Create a room that is ordered and comfortable, with places where people can gather, sit, and converse.
- Have enough room for people, including any presenters and their equipment, to move around so that they are not squeezed in too tightly.
- Take advantage of color and texture: Use bright, colorful tablecloths (fabric pieces or sheets are fine) and if possible modest arrangements of flowers or other decorations. Welcoming people and creating a pleasing environment through your own efforts is an excellent foundation to build partnerships from, especially if you are going to ask these same people to contribute towards a project.
- Serve attractive, easy-to-eat fresh snacks or food. Try something new from time to time. Offering protein and fresh fruit or vegetables helps keep people alert and actively participating in a meeting or event. In contrast, serving sugary foods or too many carbohydrates may contribute to drowsiness, impatience, or frustration during events.
To summarize the key point: When participants are authentically welcomed, and a group has an intentional practice of sharing what it is grateful for, it becomes easier for everyone to share what challenges them, and eventually to share their emerging needs, fears, and deeper unanswered questions. Such routine gratitude and appreciation practices, in the long run, may help build trust and assist in gathering momentum for a process of change.
Some Additional Suggestions
To supplement the suggestions above, Dr. Ed Brenegar has identified five basic actions that support gratitude practices in workplaces and communities:
Collective Expressions of Gratitude and Appreciation: Festivals and Celebrations
Gratitude and appreciation can also be developed and expressed on larger, collective scales, going beyond individuals and groups. Many countries around the world, for instance, designate special holidays devoted to giving thanks and appreciation. Some of these focus on giving thanks to the earth or to a deity, for a successful harvest, or for other historic moments of survival; some honor the role of families; some emphasize thankfulness to ancestors. There is great value in communal celebration and rituals of thanksgiving, which provide opportunities to create deeper bonds of appreciation and honoring for others. Here are some examples from different cultures:
- The “Yam Festival” is celebrated in Ghana and Nigeria to give thanks to the spirits of the earth and the sky for the yam harvest. In Ghana, families prepare yams and other dishes for a community feast: Young people parade behind a boy chosen to carry the best yams. In Nigeria, the celebration begins with prayers of thanks and sacrifices of food to the ancestors, and continues with public wrestling matches and feasts.
- “Anata” is celebrated in Chile to honor Pachamama – the name for Mother Earth in the Quechua language – for everything she provided in the previous year.
- “Seren Tahun” is a traditional harvest thanksgiving festival celebrated in West Java (see photo), bringing together many thousands of villagers from across this province of Indonesia to share food and appreciation.
- “Chuseok” is a fall festival in Korea dating back 2,000 years. It is a holiday traditionally spent with family, giving thanks and honoring the dead through pilgrimages to the graves of one’s ancestors, followed by public celebrations with games and dancing.
- Thanksgiving is a tradition associated with honoring and celebrating the harvest. North Americans know it well as a Christian or secular family holiday. However, versions of a thanksgiving, frequently accompanied by a harvest feast and sometimes by prayers, are found in many different religions and cultures throughout the world.
Though the examples above are national, festivals and collective expressions of gratitude can and do take place on community levels too. Many individual communities, in many countries, have their own celebrations, sharing appreciation and honoring some local community tradition.
Just a few community examples: In the United States, a garlic festival in California; a “black flies ball” in New Hampshire, which turns the seasonal arrival of these unpleasant biting flies into a festive community dance event. In Canada, many communities celebrate seasonal events like the blossoming of lilacs or the Tulip Festival in Ottawa, featuring tens of thousands of tulips and the arrival of spring. In both countries and elsewhere, Mother’s and Father’s Days are celebrated in spring; Labor Day, in the fall.
As you get to know and become part of the community you are working with, what kind of celebrations have you noticed, or taken part in, that show group appreciation and gratitude? Are there factors that make them particularly successful? And is there a way that you or your program may contribute to the collective sharing of gratitude and appreciation in a community event?
Challenges, Issues, and Questions
Potential Pitfalls in Expressing Gratitude and Appreciation
At this point, you have seen some of the benefits of gratitude and appreciation in community life, and learned some practical ways to create and apply those benefits in your own work, so that you can improve the process and the outcomes of community building.
The path to application, though, is not always easy. A community worker might not initially think that there are challenges associated with such positive qualities as gratitude and appreciation. But in fact there are quite a few, relating both to expressing and receiving each of these qualities. We’ll start with expression.
Although expressing gratitude and appreciation is almost always positive and useful, in some situations this might not be the best choice at a particular moment. The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley, California, offers some examples:
- Trying too hard to be grateful. While setting an intention to be grateful is important, spending too much time creating gratitude lists and counting the appreciation you have shown others can be overwhelming, and may leave you feeling less grateful rather than more. (This and other bulleted examples below apply equally to gratitude and to appreciation.)
- Focusing on feeling grateful for someone or something that isn’t worthy. Don’t allow your efforts to be grateful to cause you to stay in an unhealthy or abusive environment. It may be true that you can learn from those who oppose you, or don’t like you, or make your life difficult in some way. And you can certainly treat those people with kindness and respect. But that doesn’t mean you should continue to express gratitude or appreciation toward them, or continue to stay in an unpleasant or unhealthy environment.
If you are always being criticized or disregarded, and never valued or supported, gratitude does not work. Sometimes, it is better simply to leave a situation that continues to be negative or unrewarding.
- Using gratitude to avoid a serious problem. Being grateful is intended to help you focus on what is important; but if significant issues need to be addressed – about yourself, about someone else, or about your program or the larger community – ignoring them by focusing on what you are grateful for or appreciate will only bring temporary relief. In this type of situation, expressing your honest feelings clearly, possibly including negative emotions such as anger, may be the better choice, so that the issue can be squarely faced and resolved. Setting appropriate boundaries may be helpful as well.
- Downplaying your own successes through excessive gratitude. If you tend to thank everyone else and ignore your own hard work and talent on a regular basis, you may be hiding low self-esteem behind your gratitude. The fact is, though, that success and gratitude can go together. You can express gratitude AND take appropriate credit for your own successes.
- Mistaking gratitude for indebtedness. There is an important difference between sincerely feeling gratitude and appreciation for something or someone, compared to believing that you must repay a debt or remove the weight of an obligation. If someone has helped you out, it’s natural to want to return the favor, or to believe you have to. But neither are the same as feeling gratitude toward the other person.
In the long run, it’s best to reflect, and be as clear and direct as possible about your own motivations. Are you sincerely feeling gratitude toward someone, or rather creating a strategy to benefit you personally?
- Making sufficient space and time to build relationships. One of the biggest challenges to creating a culture of gratitude and appreciation in an organization, or in one’s personal life, is that both qualities require time, space, and priority of care – enough so that they can operate effectively. Without making sufficient time and energy available for mutual relationship building, and listening and learning from each other, all the gratitude and appreciation in the world will not nourish the foundation of relationship; it won’t take hold.
- Overemphasizing, On the other hand, insisting on constant expressions of gratitude and appreciation is overly simplistic and counter-productive. At times, it is possible to place too much importance on gratitude and appreciation, and not enough time on project constraints, or deliverables. Building community is a multi-faceted, multi-layered process – which means that gratitude and appreciation must be woven together and balanced thoughtfully with all the other actions a group or organization must undertake. This is an ongoing challenge!
- Sticking to the mission. Imagine, though, an organization that does give sufficient space and time to gratitude and appreciation, without overemphasizing them, as noted above. Can it do so while also entertaining change and being open to many new possibilities and priorities, all at once?
That may be difficult, for in order for an organization to prosper and grow, it must stay connected to its roots and purpose in community. Stakeholders may express thanks and appreciation for benefits in hundreds of ways, but the organization or program itself needs to stay anchored to its own mission.
So if an organization, now newly fueled by gratitude and appreciation, becomes the steward of new, robust, and expanding relationships, is it ready for this increase in scope and responsibility? Does the organization have the resources to care for and respond to this enriched opportunity? Will it remain able to honor and support its current and emerging commitments, its core values and operations? How can the organization welcome change, and the expansion that accompanies it, without compromising or losing itself? These can all be difficult challenges, all the more potent because they are often unanticipated.
- Being authentic. Finally, there is a need to be authentic when expressing these qualities. Yet what if you are not feeling either gratitude or appreciation – or, to be direct, what if someone does not deserve gratitude or appreciation, from your point of view?
Not all people, and not all actions, are worthy of gratitude and appreciation all the time. If we become a gratitude and appreciation generating machine, we risk being perceived as superficial and losing our credibility. And properly so. Expressing gratitude and appreciation must be undertaken while also being true to oneself.
But how can one know whether or not a particular expression of gratitude or appreciation is authentic? The difference is often subtle. Perhaps one key criterion is whether the expression feels authentic to the person expressing it – whether it is experienced as natural rather than manipulative or forced. If so, the distinction depends on what the person honestly feels internally.
Can Gratitude Be Subversive?
One more thought to add to the list above: Let’s assume that an organization is awash in gratitude and appreciation. What a wonderful and very fortunate organization, one might say.
However, this organization may now face big challenges. That is because gratitude can be subversive, for it affirms and validates the importance of our connections to one another, often across organizational lines. Gratitude and appreciation do not necessarily follow official rules, or authority-based protocols. Where policies or power stand in the way, gratitude jumps the fence. It can expose hypocrisy. Established hierarchies may be confronted by people’s unbridled expressions of heart-felt appreciation in ways that are unanticipated.
Not all organizations take kindly to such pressures, or to their hierarchies being challenged; nor may they wish to provide an unfettered welcome to everyone. Sometimes organizations don’t want it publicly known what the light of gratitude is shining upon.
For example, an organization wanting to cut a particular program may not wish to highlight all the wonderful things that program has created. Similarly, for an organization seeking to down-size in staff or other public resources, or one planning to close a particular community center, outpourings of gratitude may not be particularly welcome. Another example may be when a staff member goes out of the way to meet the needs of a community member, in a manner falling outside of official administrative or professional guidelines. Shining a big light on what was thought to be a generous, positive, or effective gesture could possibly lead to professional reprimands.
In this sense, have you ever experienced how publicly expressed gratitude may be seen as an obstacle rather than an asset?
Potential Pitfalls in Receiving Gratitude and Appreciation
Our comments so far have focused on pitfalls in the expression of gratitude and appreciation. But another category of pitfall deserves equal mention. This focuses on when we are the recipients of gratitude or appreciation, and the impact that has upon us. Consider the points below:
- Receiving praise can make people feel uncomfortable. Have you ever felt yourself “expanding” or feeling “lifted-up” due to someone sharing their gratitude for your work? How did you like it? Maybe you felt wonderful. But perhaps instead (or in addition) you felt uncomfortable, and wanted to play down the appreciation that was coming your way.
Feeling uncomfortable as a result of gratitude or appreciation is very common, especially when the display of gratitude or appreciation is large or public. Often we have to learn to receive thanks, as well as to give it. It’s worth remembering that someone has to receive gratitude, otherwise it is impossible to share. Just as a party must have hosts and guests, gratitude and appreciation must have receivers as well as givers.
- Receiving recognition can reduce objectivity. This is a particularly important consideration for community builders and others involved in volunteer or community organizations, for they are often more motivated by the wish to make a positive impact on the community than by personal social status or financial gain.
The reality in most nonprofit or community-focused organizations, though, is that gratitude for our efforts may be the only “payment” we receive. And so the experience of receiving appreciation for a job well done can reduce our objectivity, especially when we are devoting significant time and effort to the work for which we are being appreciated.
That is, it’s harder to be critical of a person or group that continually sings your praises, and keeps telling you how wonderful and helpful you are. It seems ungracious, unjust, unfair. And so it’s easier to minimize the program flaws you may be seeing, or simply not see them at all. We may try to remain objective, but we are swayed by social reinforcement. We are human. And as humans, gratitude and appreciation can distort our judgment.
- Receiving acknowledgement can be a distraction. Challenging situations can also arise if we are not careful, especially when we develop personal relationships with the recipients of our efforts. It is possible for the gratitude we receive to distract us from the real purpose of our actions, over and above the objectivity needed to focus on what is truly in the best interest of those we wish to help or serve.
Here’s a revealing story illustrating this point, as told by our co- author, Mary Ella:
“I helped start a small Seattle-based nonprofit organization called Global Citizen Journey, which sponsored several volunteer groups from the United States to visit struggling regions in other parts of the world. Our purpose was to create a deeper understanding of areas not normally visited by Westerners, and to create long-lasting relationships with individuals from those countries.
“We chose to journey first to the Niger Delta of Nigeria, a region experiencing massive environmental and economic suffering. Twenty of us joined up to spend three weeks traveling through the Niger Delta, including ten days in a remote village in a swampy area surrounded by oil wells and gas flares.
“Part of our approach was to identify and facilitate a service project in collaboration with the community where we were staying, in order to develop deeper relationships and to ensure our visit would leave behind something of value. We suggested planting trees or teaching skills to the village women, but the local school teacher on the planning committee suggested instead that we build a library! This was a much bigger service project than we had imagined; but when we learned that the nearest library was 100 km away – essentially impossible to reach for children whose only means of transportation was a canoe – we were inspired to raise serious money and make the library happen.
“The fact that the idea had been initiated by someone from the community – together with the overwhelming enthusiasm and appreciation exhibited by the local planning committee – caused us to feel we must have found just the right project, and that further due diligence was unnecessary before finalizing our decision. We hired local people to begin the building process in advance, so that by the time our group arrived all that remained to complete the project was painting, landscaping, and organizing the 20 suitcases of books we brought with us as the first donations to the library.
“At the ceremonies on opening day, the gratitude and appreciation we received from the community residents, the federal and regional leaders, and the Nigerian media will forever be memorable. It made all the thousands of hours of fundraising, library design, and collaboration worthwhile.
“And yet … we slowly came to realize that our purpose and process had become fogged and distracted by the overwhelming appreciation and publicity we had received. It turned out there were many problems with the project: The community didn’t really understand what it would take to sustain a library; the teachers did not know how to integrate the library resources into the curriculum for their students; many of the books we brought were culturally inappropriate; and the state government withdrew financial support when new politicians came into office.
“In addition, while we had envisioned the library as a regional resource, its location far from the shoreline made it difficult for individuals from other neighboring ethnic groups (who had been in conflict with each other a few years earlier) to feel safe visiting a facility so far inland. Other issues arose over time, and sadly the library is now locked up and only occasionally used.
“Not only was the library we built not a success, but regretfully it actually created financial and political tensions in the community. How could all this effort have gone so wrong?
“We had relied on the positive feedback and appreciation we received as the primary indicator that we were on the right track – when in retrospect it is clear that the appreciation we received was not because the library was just the right project, but because any attention offered to this deeply neglected region would have been greatly appreciated. The village residents didn’t really understand the long-term implications of building the kind of library we gave them, nor did we understand their context well enough to be sure what they were asking for would be truly helpful.”
The potential for gratitude or appreciation to be a distraction exists whether we are working on behalf of individuals on the other side of the globe or in our own communities. We must not allow anyone’s appreciation of us to lessen the need for taking an objective and broadly participatory approach to determining how best to help – and measuring the results of those efforts.
One last important pitfall is also illustrated by the story above, which relates both to expressing and receiving gratitude and appreciation. It’s a key lesson:
- The cultural context may not be understood. When working with people from another community or culture, it is essential to take time to learn as much as possible about their cultural context, in order to best understand our communications with each other. In addition, it’s important to be aware that different cultures express and receive gratitude and appreciation in different ways, and that the desired result will not be achieved if appreciation is not delivered in a culturally sensitive manner.
Many Western cultures, for instance, place great value on public recognition as a way of showing gratitude and appreciation; this section has provided a number of examples of how to do that. However, in some cultures and contexts – some indigenous and Asian cultures, for example – public expressions of praise and gratitude are considered embarrassing and impolite, especially when others are present. In those cultures, a preferred approach for delivering praise to an individual for a job well done is simply to express thanks, or to ask the person to continue making their contribution as they have been doing.
Likewise, cultural sensitivity is needed when bestowing praise on a group or team. When diverse individuals are working together in teams, the assumption is that all members of the team are providing their best efforts, and thus should share equally in the results of those efforts. In these situations, singling out individuals for recognition could be particularly inappropriate, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This issue is also worth considering whenever teams are closely working together and creating a joint product, whether or not multiple cultures are involved.
The main message here is simple but also fundamental: It is necessary to give careful thought to the cultural and organizational context – and to the needs and interests of others – whenever one wants to publicly show gratitude and appreciation.
We hope the discussion under this heading has highlighted some of the many challenges linked with expressing and receiving gratitude and appreciation. In truth, however, these challenges are a natural part of community work. We act based upon our emotions and feelings, not just upon our logical minds. Human nature is complex; and human beings are multi-dimensional!
It’s reassuring to note that during these times of deep social, economic, and technological transition, we can freely draw upon the power of something as ancient and elemental, as accessible and portable, as gratitude and appreciation. Practices of gratitude and appreciation offer inner strength, grace, and guidance; they enrich how and why we come together in community. Like plump seeds with crisp and greening sprouts, gratitude and appreciation can feed and sustain the tender building of our community relationships.
And in this fast-moving age, when the intensity and strife of the world can seem overwhelming and so close at hand, gratitude and appreciation are especially fortifying and life-affirming. They are as basic as one person recognizing the efforts of another, or as one person radiating their open and whole-hearted connection first into themselves, and then out into the world around them.
As we experience political upheavals, economic uncertainties, and environmental challenges, gratitude and appreciation magnify and amplify the path before us. They shine a light onto our present and future opportunities as interdependent beings. In times of crisis, transition, or apparent chaos, gratitude and appreciation can help us ground and center ourselves, serving as a counter-balance to immobility, or feeling overwhelmed. Our actions of gratitude and appreciation bring us into connections with others and into active, purposeful service. They help us, and those around us, strengthen the community ties that are so essential to our well-being.
In this section, we have tried to show how you, as a community builder, can draw upon and utilize these powerful spiritual qualities to advance your own community goals. What practices of gratitude or appreciation have been successful for you? How might you share gratitude and appreciation in your own community building work? We encourage you to reflect upon and answer these questions for yourself, and then take the next steps forward.
Suzanne B. Hale
Mary Ella Keblusek
Suzanne B. Hale is a community-based educator with over 20 years’ experience working in northern British Columbia, Yukon, Ontario, and Quebec. Curious by nature, she enjoys the process of discovery, art making, and community building.
Mary Ella Keblusek enjoys weaving networks that empower people to focus on the critical issues of our time. She holds an MA from Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, and a Master of International Service from American University in Washington D.C. She has worked with several international nonprofits – including Initiatives of Change, Charter for Compassion, and the Giraffe Heroes Project – as well as serving as Vice President / General Manager of a Fortune 300 consulting and financial services corporation.
- Adult Gratitude Scales includes listing of general sources on gratitude.
- An Experiment in Gratitude
- I Will Be a Hummingbird
- In Your Words: The Gifts of Grateful Living
- Why Does Gratitude Matter?
Graphics and Visuals
- Full page graphic of 5 Actions of Gratitude
- Listings of Posters, Flyers, and Cards
- Say Thanks Every Day: The Five Actions of Gratitude
- The Tree of Gratitude: A Say Thanks Every Day Guide
Interactive Resources: Gratitude Quizzes, Games, and Projects
- Gratitude in a Box: Card Game is a download of cards and instructions for Gratitude in a Box.
- Gratitude in a Box: Video is a video describing the social game, where people share stories of unexpected and discovered gratitude
- The Gratitude Lens Project A 30-day challenge to take and share a photo of one thing you are grateful for
- Gratitude Quiz Asks “How grateful are you?”
Applications: Gratitude Practices for Individuals
- 7 Gratitude Exercises You Should Try Today
- 25+ Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Five Ways Giving Thanks Can Backfire
- How Gratitude Can Make You More Creative and Innovative
- Six Habits of Highly Grateful People
Applications in Schools
Applications in Organizations and Workplaces
- Best Practices in Volunteer Management
- Grateful Organizations Quiz
- Gratitude in the Workplace: Additional Resources
Applications to Donor Relations
- 4 Surprising Donor Retention Statistics
- 20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas
- Anatomy of a “Thank You” Letter
- What My Mother Taught Me and How it Informs My Fundraising Practice
- Why Don't Donors Trust Us, & What Can We Do About It?
- Are You Up for a Little Appreciative Inquiry?
- Resources and Case Studies about Appreciative Inquiry includes resources in Spanish.
- Appreciative Inquiry Commons
- Creating a Culture of Gratitude
- Maximizing Community Stakeholders' Engagement is a webinar.
- Work, Life, Lead: Expressing Gratitude in a Social Media World
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Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2004). The psychology of gratitude. New York: Oxford University Press.
Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in education: A radical view. Boston: Sense Publishers.
Kaplan, J. (2016). The gratitude diaries: How a year looking on the bright side can transform your life. New York: Dutton.
Kralik, J. (2011). A simple act of gratitude: How learning to say thank you changed my life. New York: Hachette Books.
Sacks, O. (2015). Gratitude. New York: Knopf.
Steindl-Rast, D. (2018). May cause happiness; A gratitude journal. Louisville, Colorado: Sounds True.