We've all been there.
We've had that boss who never acknowledges effort, the friend who constantly asks for favors but never makes it seem worth it, and we've all experienced rudeness and indifference from strangers. While there's nothing you can do about how others act, you can set a good example by being the change you want to see.
The best way to get more people on board with showing appreciation is to do it yourself. Here are 20 simple ways to live a life full of gratitude and honor all of the people who make your life better.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John F. Kennedy
1. Hand write a thank you note. Sure, it takes a bit more effort and your penmanship is probably terrible from a lack of use, but this little effort goes a long way.
2. Acknowledge them publicly. If someone has made a big difference in your life, raise a glass and make a toast to honor that special person. Everyone loves a moment in the sun, so why not give them one?
3. Spend time with them. If you have a friend who got you through a really difficult time or you want to acknowledge a special family member who did a fantastic job raising you, spend some time with them. They obviously love you, and sharing that time together will be an incredible gift.
4. Add details when thanking them. Saying "thanks" is great, but if you really want to show your appreciation, fully recognize their efforts. "Thank you so much for getting up early to help me load up the moving truck. I know it wasn't fun, but I really do appreciate it!"
5. Feed them. They need to eat anyway, and providing food is always a great idea. If they're helping with manual labor, provide pizza and beer. If they helped you out at work, pick up their lunch. Take note of any allergies and bake up some treats if you want to thank a large group of people at once.
6. Give them a hug. There's nothing better than a big, squeezy, "I love the crap out of you" hug, so open those arms up and say thank you. If someone isn't a hugger, a hearty handshake is a decent substitute.
7. Be helpful in return. If someone helps you with a renovation project, be available to them when they begin theirs. If they cooked you dinner, help pick up dishes afterward. (You can even do this one at a restaurant by arranging dishes in a way that makes it easier for them to be taken away from the table.)
8. Tell them right away. Don't let a good deed go unnoticed. For the best effect, recognize the person and thank them as soon as possible. If you wait too long, they may feel overlooked and unappreciated.
9. Be honest and sincere. This one might be obvious, but when giving someone thanks, take a moment to slow it down and be real. This is especially true for someone you normally joke around with all the time, because the change in tone will let them know you absolutely mean it.
10. Pay attention to what they need. If someone is doing you a favor, pay attention to them and what they need to get the job done as painlessly as possible. If you gave them a tool to use that's broken, replace it. If you're asking more than they can handle, lessen their load and make it manageable. This way, they don't have to wait until the end of the job to receive thanks, as they'll know they are appreciated the entire time.
11. Pay them a compliment. Don't just thank someone for what they've done for you; let them know exactly how much they rock.
12. Thank them with a gift. This doesn't have to be something huge and extravagant. Small tokens of appreciation, like movie tickets or a bottle of their favorite wine, will have a huge impact.
13. Keep a journal. This isn't to keep score of who does more favors for you, but it will make you more aware of how many people selflessly help you out on any given day, which is sure to boost your mood and help you do other kind things for others. This only needs to be done a couple of times a week, but it will make you more aware of all the good in your life.
14. Reduce complaints. Show others that you respect and appreciate them and their time by reducing the amount of complaining you do. Yes, some jobs are no fun to do, but complaining doesn't help; it makes it worse for you and everyone around you, particularly someone going out of their way to pitch in for you.
15. Make them something. Everyone has different talents, and why not use yours to help show appreciation? Whether you're skilled at woodworking, sewing, crafting, or drawing, using your expertise to make a small, thoughtful gift will be hugely appreciated.
16. Tip well. As the saying goes: "If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out." Restaurant workers don't make a lot, and a 20 percent tip should be the absolute minimum.
17. Do your part. Yes, there are people whose job it is to pick up garbage or collect carts in the grocery store parking lot, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't put any effort into those tasks. Make sure your garbage makes it into a garbage can and you bring your cart to the corral. (If I can do it with twin newborns while it's raining, so can you.) These workers will appreciate your helpfulness.
18. Be positive. When someone helps you out, there is always the chance that it wasn't done exactly how you had envisioned. Rather than gripe about the imperfections, praise them for the positive aspects of the job they did. If they tried their best but didn't quite hit the mark, giving positive encouragement will make them aspire to do better next time, and make them feel better about the mistakes they made.
19. Show respect for their time. If someone is doing a job for you, even if you're their supervisor at work, show respect for their time. Be prompt, and make sure all necessary supplies they need to complete the task. If they can get started right away, they probably won't need to stay late and cut into their personal time later.
20. SMILE!! Dolly Parton once said, "If you see someone without a smile, give 'em yours!" Smiling is the surest way to let people know that you truly appreciate what they've done and that they've made your life better somehow. Research has shown that smiling, even when you don't particularly want to, will make you happier.
[Header image credit: FlairImages/iStockphoto]