Did you know that recent research has proven to be correct. By studying animals who cannot express gratitude through verbal language, scientists have found the act of reciprocity—the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit—is at the heart of gratitude behavior.
As humans, our ability to express our emotions through language, reciprocity, and gratitude often go together. When someone is kind to us, and we return the favor, that is a form of direct reciprocity that we expect.
Interestingly, as recipients of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, we are more likely to help not only the person who bestowed kindness but a third party as well. This ripple effect of indirect reciprocity is a powerful tool for cultivating gratitude.
Gratitude involves a humble recognition that we are interdependent, that we need one another. In fact, the strength of this recognition has led to a movement—pay it forward—whereby strangers perform acts of kindness with the hope that others will do the same.
Give it a try! Find one person who you can do something for without any expectation of them doing something in return. Here are some examples:
- Buy the person in line behind you a cup of coffee. - Send someone on your team a note just to thank them. - Write a positive Yelp review about a local business you like. - Let someone go in front of you in line, who only has a few items. - Leave a gas gift card at a gas pump. - Return shopping carts for people at the grocery store.
There is no limit to what you can do! Do something unexpected, and watch what happens.