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How Not to Suck At Being Appreciative

Photograph by Twenty20

'Tis the season for Facebook platitudes: daily status updates sharing with the world why we are so grateful. While there is nothing wrong with this sort of public display of appreciation, it doesn't do much to truly capture the spirit of sincere gratitude.

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In fact, saying thank you, in my book, is only part of the process. What I find lacking is usually the last piece of the definition: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Words are nice, but actions are so much more powerful. I had the chance to learn this lesson firsthand over the past two months, after the sudden, devastating loss of my step-father, followed by the accidental death of one of my husband's colleagues, my son's spinal surgery, and the passing of our beloved cat of 13 years. Life was kind of sucking for my family, and had it not been for the friendship and support of our friends and family, I don't know how we would have gotten through it all.

But we did, and it made me realize how vital it is to have a tribe of caring people willing to help ease our burden in any way they could. I wanted to do more than just say "thanks." So I got to thinking about how I could show my appreciation and came up with this list. If you've got someone in your life that has gone the extra mile for you, make the effort to demonstrate your gratitude. They'll appreciate it more than you know.

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1. Tell the person how their actions impacted you.
Whenever you have the chance to thank someone, make sure to include specific details of how their actions made a difference for you. Thank you cards are so much more meaningful when you explain how a gift or act of kindness brightened your day.

2. Embrace them.
While it's a good idea to ask first, I think a generous, warm hug can be a great way to express your appreciation for someone. I am known for giving good hug. It's a thing. Trust me.

3. Make an effort to remember what is going on in their lives.
No one has a perfect life and making the effort to remember (and act) when things occur to those who have been there for you is a sure-fire sign that you are thankful for their friendship and support, and care about their lives, too.

4. Let them know you would like to support them.
Sometimes people are better at giving than they are at receiving. It makes a huge difference when you tell someone that you want to be there for them, and let them know that if they need you, you will help in any way you can.

5. Create a token of your gratitude.
Whether it's a handmade card, a craft, or a meal, do something to signify your thankfulness. When my family finally felt ready to face the world, we invited every single person who helped us over for a five-course homemade meal and made a point to say how appreciative we felt for their support.

6. Share what they did with others.
Bragging to others is a wonderful way to make the person who was kind to you feel appreciated. Let them overhear you tell someone else how much their good deed meant to you. It gives instant warm feelings.

7. Pay it forward.
Nothing says "you made my life better" than doing something for someone else to make their life better, too. Donate to charity in the name of the person who helped, supported or surprised you with their thoughtfulness. Commit a random act of kindness inspired by the one who was kind to you. Make sure to let them know what you did, and that they were the motivation for your good deed.

Step outside the box and make the effort to truly show appreciation, rather than just saying so. It will mean more to them, and to you, than a simple "thank you" ever could.

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