12/02/2015 2:22 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

The Most Powerful Word You're Not Saying

Kohei Hara via Getty Images

'Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.' - GB Stern

Last year, several small tete-a-tetes were organised in various offices across the Capital on Thanksgiving Day. Notices were sent in advance, employees posted brightly hued post-its about various things they were thankful for, and there was a lot of merriment and ‘selfie-taking’ that lasted for about an hour.

Yes, just an hour.

After life resumed its normal sobriety, it was perplexing to observe was that people just slipped back into their deadline-tensing bubbles, barely learning from the exercise, or not even realising just how much happiness had lit their faces just because of an encouraging note that took all of two seconds to write. It didn’t matter that the handwriting was bad, it didn’t matter if the words were not correct. The message was clear.

Yet no one seemed to really get that this could be extended into a long term practice.

Just like the concept of Thanksgiving is relatively foreign in our country, the concept of saying thank you also seems to be increasingly being callously discarded as a formality. Or as word that is only potent when used in extreme cases of gratitude generation, else it loses its purpose. (Or so I have been told)

Not true.

So why are we so awkward about expressing a simple thank you?

Possibly because it renders our image as dependent on the person we’re thanking. But expressing gratitude is very different from being indebted to someone. The next time you feel like you are exposing a more vulnerable side of yourself, consider this: Saying ‘thank you’ is not an IOU in any form: it’s building a bond; even if it is with a complete stranger.

Here are a few instances of how saying Thank You can help your health…and your life!

You'll get smarter:

Professor, author and happiness researcher Shawn Achor, according to wisebread.com, in his Ted Talk has found that creating a gratitude list begins to reprogram the human brain for positivity. This releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which allows the brain to perform better, causing people to be more creative and better at problem solving.

You'll lose weight:

Another report by Livestrong.com (author Rhiannon Clouse) shows that dopamine is linked to emotional and motivational activities, and is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. As it helps regulate blood flow through the arteries, modulate eating habits and contribute to high cognitive functioning, perhaps it would be a good idea to start feeling a little more gratitude more often.

You'll cut out stress:

Author Kristen Stewart on everydayhealth.com has picked up an interesting study: researchers in England studied a group of students at the beginning and end of their first semester in college and found that those who practiced gratitude experienced less stress and more social support. Similar results were found by researchers at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and the University of California at Davis — young teens who counted their blessings reported more optimism and satisfaction than those who didn’t. She adds to this by quoting Dr Sheela Raja, PhD, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist in the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Illinois in Chicago: “Grateful people are also often more content because they don’t spend a lot of time comparing themselves with others.”

You'll save your marriage:

Men’s Health shows a study by Dr Sara Algoe, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: She recruited 67 California couples and asked each partner to independently respond “yes” or “no” to two statements each night for 14 nights. First statement: “I did something thoughtful for my partner.” Second: “My partner did something thoughtful for me.” Algoe discovered that the good deeds we do for our soulmates go completely unnoticed about half the time.

Still, Algoe notes, “Women are better attuned to the thoughtfulness of the gesture…” So, if you are thankful, express it. Because “without expressing it, you lose an opportunity to solidify the relationship at 
that moment.”

You'll get more job satisfaction:

If anyone at work has ever helped you out in any way, simply reach out with an enthusiastic reply. Yes, better late than never. You’ll find that both you and your colleague are quicker and more eager to help out one another in the near future.

Another Men’s Health find quotes Dr Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist and management professor at the Wharton School, author of ‘Give and Take’: “The absence of gratitude can send as powerful a message as the presence of it… someone not thanking me is a strong signal that this is someone I cannot trust.” Or expect open communication from. Men, particularly, finds Dr Grant, have a harder time expressing this particular emotion than women.

If you still have a problem reaching out, ask yourself this: What have you got to lose?

And then compare it to our notes on what you have to gain.

So… who’s the turkey now? Probably the one too stuffed to say, “Thanks.”