Oftentimes, it is difficult to remember to take the time to recognize those who help pick us up from our low points and get back on our feet. Sometimes, the help is obvious – we’re offered finances or a place to stay. Other times, it’s not so noticeable or seemingly insignificant, at least at first – the stranger in the grocery store let us go first because we have far fewer items. But, nevertheless, we’re constantly interacting with others and likely receiving help more than we realize it.

Do you squirm a little when someone extends their gratitude or brush it aside with a quick “no problem”, simply because you’re really not sure how to respond? Or, does it feel good to hear your gesture was appreciated, and does being thanked leave you feeling better about yourself? Everyone’s different, but chances are, even if on the surface you squirm, when you reflect on the gesture in a quiet moment alone later that day, you smile.

Research has shown that one’s daily outlook on life, the ability to propel ourselves toward success and to feel true contentment and satisfaction with our accomplishments requires an ability to accept verbal appreciation from others. We must not only accept thanks but understand that it is genuine, and that we are deserving. What’s more, when we take the time to return the favor, studies have found that we live longer lives with healthier hearts and higher rates of overall immunity.

Think about it. When you’re feeling stressed and in a state of unease, you often get sick, right? Harboring anger, resentment, and ungratefulness also depletes your resources, lowers your immunity, and leaves you feeling just, well, yucky. It is important for us to release these negative emotions and embrace the good, then pay it forward, in order to optimize our health. Only when we can truly accept a ‘thank you’, can we genuinely offer one. And, the more we commit to this pattern, the more we’ll feel well.

If we can work on ourselves from the inside out and get more comfortable with expressing ourselves, asking for help and offering gratitude, we can lead more fulfilling lives. Extending our thanks not only improves the self-esteem of the individuals who deserve to be recognized, but the very ability to do this improves our own. This is because it allows us to truly understand we’ve gotten to the point in our journey to be capable of doing this, which is a significant milestone. Once we reach this milestone, we stop and reflect on the journey that led us to that point.

In the counseling profession, there are a few things which the legal system and review boards hold counselors responsible for, including actively listening, coaching, guiding and driving the success of colleagues. Ethical codes actually make counselors responsible for supporting others in an effort to uphold the overall integrity of the profession. Imagine if we were all held to these standards! The policy-enforcers found that continued encouragement and gratitude lifts everyone up to the point that the future of the profession itself depends on it. This is the only way helpers can be effective. Doesn’t the future of humanity depend on it, too?

There have been a multitude of studies showing the benefits of positive reinforcement and the importance of not only correcting wrongful behavior but encouraging the continuation of good. Parents discipline their children at the same time they encourage them to do their best and reinforce when they have. This should also come as second nature to educators and those in helping professions. Yet, the rest of us should actively participate as well, making sure we offer positive feedback to others when due, including showing our appreciation and offering meaningful ‘thank you’s.

So, once we’ve gotten to the point in our journey where we feel we are eternally grateful for everything that led to the sense of peace and contentment we have inside, maybe for the first time ever, we need to reflect on just how many people made this possible and reconnect where recognition is due. This is the next step of the healing process – thanking others. These ‘thank you’s don’t need to be well thought out or especially extensive. In fact, a very simple version is often the most effective.

Are you ready to say, ‘thank you’? Give it a whirl and pay particularly close attention to how it makes you feel inside when you do.