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  • Jodi Blake

Gratitude Ideas for 4 Special Groups

Smiling woman with hands over her heart

As many of us are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today here in the U.S., we may be more focused on our blessings – appreciating the harvest, being thankful to gather with family and friends, and feeling happy about other positive aspects of our lives. Acknowledging gratitude can also be beneficial every day.

According to Psychology Today, gratitude is “the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth.”

I often recognize gratitude by turning something I’m feeling negative about into a search for the “silver lining.” After an unexpected job layoff at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, my husband and I found that financially it would be possible for me to retire early. It was easy to feel gratitude for this life change that allowed me more time for other interests, including starting a blog with my good friend, Heather. But I was even more grateful for this life change when my mother experienced some health issues and needed extra support at her home. I was able to spend a few weeks with my mother to help get her through a challenging health scare.

Speaking of family, Heather’s brother Sean set up a private family Facebook group a couple of years ago with the express purpose to cheer each other on. Originally, it was to encourage each other’s health goals, but since then it has also been used to express appreciation for one another. “We may be hundreds of miles apart, but our interactions within the Facebook group makes me feel valued and loved by my brothers, sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews. It’s such a simple concept, and it’s brought us all so much joy,” Heather says.

And there are benefits to bringing more gratitude into your life. As Dr. Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., founder of the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, writes in her “Gratitude: Definition, Examples, and Practices” blog post:

“When you remind yourself of what you are grateful for, you train your brain to focus on the positive and generate positive emotions automatically. In addition, expressing gratitude to the people you are grateful [for] lets them know you appreciate them and helps you build stronger, happier relationships.”

Be sure to consider these four groups when looking for ways to bring more gratitude into your life.


Woman seated at a table writing in a journal

When beginning to practice sincere gratitude, where better to start than with oneself?

  • Commit to a gratitude journal every day/night – write down one-three things you are thankful for

  • Practice self-care days – take a vacation or weekend day to pamper yourself at the spa, relax in a bubble bath with a glass of wine or cup of tea, or find alone time to read a favorite book or watch a movie

  • Demonstrate gratitude for your body by moving – sign up for a class at the gym, take a long walk at a park, or try out some yoga poses

Claire, Heather’s niece, received a special birthday gift this year from her best friend – a book called “The Little Book of Gratitude” along with lots of goodies for self-care. Her friend knows this year hasn’t been the easiest for Claire and constantly reminds her of all of the things in her life that she should be grateful for all while doing her best as a friend to show Claire empathy and to comfort her in the worst of times.

Since then, Claire goes through the book at least a few times a week to find something that speaks to her and makes her feel good. She also has made it a goal to take the time in her daily affirmations to remind herself of all that she is thankful for. She says it has impacted her happiness and enhanced many aspects of her life.

“Pairing gratitude and happiness have made me feel as if I am experiencing a new layer of life and what a beautiful feeling that is.” – Claire


Man hugging an older woman

Expressing thanks to those in our family – often those who we rely on the most – is a powerful way to keep familial bonds strong.

  • Send thinking of you cards for no reason other than to show gratitude

  • Offer to babysit or bring over a special meal for no reason at all

  • Steal a family member away for a day of self-care

  • Start a family Facebook gratitude group or message chain; randomly shout out family members for their good qualities or deeds

  • Reflect on how you are grateful for each family member; add to your gratitude journal

  • Ask your children and spouse or significant other what they are grateful for

Heather and her husband are traveling to see two of her brothers in Georgia for Thanksgiving, and she knows that means her dear sister-in-law Jan is working so hard to prepare for them and the rest of the family coming in from near and far. Besides sending a ham to help with dinner, Heather wanted to do something extra for Jan because of all she is doing for them.

“In my thank you note, I’m slipping in a gift card to her favorite nail salon, so after we leave, she can enjoy a little self-care,” says Heather.

My mother-in-law Marilyn lives several states away, and it’s challenging to visit in person very often. I know how much Marilyn loves flowers, so I found a local florist that creates beautiful floral arrangements. Then I make sure to send flowers to this special woman throughout the year. I hope it’s one way I can let Marilyn know how grateful our family is to have her in our lives.

Personal Community/Friends

A woman with her hands over her chest standing between a man and another woman who each are showing the thumbs-up gesture

A community of friends is built and nurtured over time. Showing our sincere appreciation for what they add to our lives is one way to keep the relationship strong and valued.

  • Send cards/notes at random times during the year, expressing gratitude for good qualities or deeds

  • Treat a friend to a self-care day – perhaps together

  • Offer to babysit, dog sit or house sit

  • Send flowers or treats

Thanking friends for doing something special for you is a great way to express your gratitude. Janel, a good friend who I met when we were both Girl Scout leaders, wanted to find a special way to thank a long-time friend Nicole she has known since they were both 10 years old. Nicole is a very talented photographer and insisted on taking high school senior photos of Janel’s daughter at no charge.

Janel knows her friend loves peanut butter, is eating healthy, and recently discovered a love of candied pecans. So, Janel ordered a pecan butter sample pack from a small woman-owned business, just like Nicole’s photography studio.

“I know she’ll have fun trying something new! It makes me happy to find her something unique since she’s done so much for me and my daughter (and saved me hundreds of dollars),” says Janel.

Professional Community

Standing woman with one hand on her chest and shaking hands with a man while another woman and man applaud in the background

One last, but important, group to think about when you want to show gratitude includes the colleagues you work with in the office or through virtual connections. They may also be those people who participate with you in professional organizations or as volunteers.

  • Send a note to a colleague to express gratitude for a quality or for a project well done

  • Create a gratitude box to deposit notes that can be shared on a weekly or monthly basis with team members, expressing gratitude for help, admired qualities or a job well done (Several years ago the marketing department in which Heather worked set up a gratitude box in their office.)

  • Create an “attaboy” system of stickers/clings (like you would find on a football helmet) that can go on a coworker’s door or window

  • Design and utilize a series of thank you or attaboy note cards for leaders and coworkers to express their gratitude to other team members (Jodi’s former employer created company e-cards that could be emailed to colleagues to express gratitude or recognize high performance)

  • Create a (moderated) bulletin board on the Intranet for colleagues to shout out messages of gratitude to other team members

“I am one of Hallmark’s reliable customers!” Heather says. “I love to send cards for a multitude of reasons, but sending a card for no reason other than to express your appreciation or love for someone is really so special.” After Heather retired, she wanted to stay connected to some of her closest colleagues. She found a great “book” of oversized postcards from Target that included positive, encouraging themes. She continues to send them randomly to work friends who she knows can use a boost now and then.

Want to Learn More?

Heather and I both hope you’re finding some new ways to identify what you’re grateful for and will decide to focus on gratitude as a way to balance life’s challenges.

If you want to read more about gratitude, here are some helpful resources:

If you have other resources or any tips for acknowledging gratitude, please share them in the comments below.

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