Expressing Gratitude

Activities & Lessons


Free Play, Cooperation, & Well-Being



40 minutes.

Human Restoration Project. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

March 2022

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This lesson details how to effectively show gratitude toward a more cooperative community.

video overview

overview & purpose

Expressing gratitude is thanking someone for their help. This is one of the most important qualities of successful relationships. Expressing gratitude helps each person recognize the other person’s efforts and make the other person feel appreciated. Scientists call it a "social glue" - it keeps people together. While it is beneficial to think about things you are grateful for and why, gratitude is even more valuable when you express it.

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lesson / activity

How can you express gratitude well? From research, we know that there are three main things we need to express gratitude well:

1. Be intentional. This means you're not just saying it; there is a purpose behind it. Rather than just saying “thanks” in the moment, it is helpful to think through what you will say and how you will say it beforehand. 

​2. Be authentic. This means that you are genuine; you say what you mean and mean what you say. 

​3. Be specific. Instead of saying something like, “you’re great,” you can say something like, “I appreciate that you are always willing to listen to me vent. It means a lot that I can always depend on you to be there and support me when I have a problem.” 

It takes a little more time and effort to express gratitude more deeply, but doing so can help the other person feel more appreciated, which is vital to maintaining strong relationships and feeling happier.

To get a better sense of different ways you can express gratitude, and why they matter, we'd like you to watch this video.


As you saw in the video, simply saying “thank you” is valuable, but taking the time to express gratitude more deeply can make it much more meaningful. Now we want you to try your hand at writing your own gratitude letter. Think about someone in your life who you feel grateful towards. This could be a friend, teacher, parent, coach, librarian – anyone that you feel has done something you feel grateful for.

To feel the full effects of this activity, please be as genuine and detailed as possible.

Be sure to:

  1. Describe the specific ways this person helped you
  2. Recognize their intentions (think about whether they did it on purpose, how it benefited you, and what it cost them to help)
  3. Tell them how their help made you feel and how you feel about this person in general

Based on what you learned today, what are some of the most important things you should do to express gratitude well?

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