Good for Me, Good for You
Being grateful can improve your health. It can even affect the health of others.
So, beginning with our Thanksgiving worship service at 7:00 p.m. next Tuesday, November 21st, folks at NorthPark Presbyterian Church can take action towards improved health all around.
“…studies have suggested that being grateful can improve well-being, physical health, can strengthen social relationships, produce positive emotional states and help us cope with stressful times in our lives.”
These positive outcomes are described by Jeremy Dean whose blog is featured on Psych Central. Jeremy takes it step further in sharing subsequent research1 showing the effect our gratitude has on others.
Two effects are produced when you tell someone “thank you.” First, it affirms them! We give them the knowledge that they did something that was recognized and confirmed it as meaningful. Second, it increases the likelihood that they will help us and/or someone else in the future.
Now, it could be said that attempting to secure help from the same person in the future might not be a high spiritual calling. It might be selfish.
(Sidebar: To all you development officers out there, don’t fret. Your work of recognition and offering thanks to donors is essential and a blessing. Just be watchful about straying towards that fuzzy boundary of manipulation.)
Since I brought it up, I’ll share the social science behind getting repeat assistance. But folks, you must promise to use this knowledge for good and never for evil.
A series of four studies involved a fictitious student “Eric” who asked for feedback via email on a cover letter for a job application. After receiving their feedback, Eric sent a request for help on a second cover letter. The people whom Eric thanked responded at twice the rate of the people who were simply asked with a neutral request.
This effect has a “pay it forward” result as well. When a different “student” asked for the same kind of help, the people who were thanked by Eric responded at twice the rate as the ones not thanked. While the total number of people helping the second student decreased, they still had a 100% better record for helping!
It’s interesting that the reason people helped again was not because being thanked increased their self-esteem, but rather it confirmed that their help was both needed and meaningful. As Dean summarizes, “The act of saying thank you reassures the helper that their help is valued and motivates them to provide even more.”
The Apostle Paul admonishes the Thessalonians and tells us to give thanks in all things, no matter what the circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5). I encourage this practice, but I also recognize the human spirit can be so hurt by something or someone, that thanksgiving is hard to reach.
However, if we cannot count our own blessings in a given moment or season, let us pass forward a blessing by showing, telling or writing our gratitude for another person, not just their act of kindness.
At NorthPark’s Thanksgiving service on Tuesday, we will give everyone present a tangible way to show we are thankful for another human and any kindness offered. In fact, you don’t even have to know that person. The same studies mentioned earlier show that when a person is thanked by a stranger, it can have an even greater positive effect!
Rev. Shane Whisler serves as Parish Associate at NorthPark Presbyterian Church. He holds a journalism degree from Oklahoma University and attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Together with his wife, he has two thoughtful teenagers and a menagerie of animals.
“Why ‘Thank You’ Is More Than Just Good Manners” By Jeremy Dean
1Adam M. Grant and Francesco Gino studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Grant & Gino, 2010).