A year to learn to say thank you

After Christmas, gifts and family reunions, this is the time for good resolutions and assessments. After saying “thank you” for each gift received, can we imagine making this word the red thread of the coming year, to salute all the pleasures received, big and small? To also take an indulgent look at his loved ones? The idea is, in any case, in tune with the times. In recent months, many books have flourished, ranging from spirituality to personal development.

Would saying thank you make you happy? “Anyway, it feels good. answers Édouard Gentaz, director of research at the CNRS. The benefits of gratitude on psychological well-being have been proven. There is a small but significant connection between the two. » However, the scientist calls for caution and not to expect too much from a concept that is sometimes brandished a little too quickly. “Contrary to what you can read here and there, the brain, neuroscience, have nothing to do with it, and the promises of benefits on the body are absolutely not demonstrated at this stage. It’s all about psychology. »

Gratitude Notebooks

Launching into writing one of these “gratitude notebooks”, which flourish on the shelves of bookstores, can it therefore be a good idea? This kind of diaries to personalize offers to those who receive it to reread their day in order to identify all the little moments that have gone a little unnoticed or the great joys. Some, like that of Anne-Sophie Chauvet, are part of a Christian perspective (see markers). “I wrote it for one of my daughters when her father left me. She was sad, I wanted her to relearn how to see the little joys of everyday life, to help her get better. The gratitude notebook was only a tool – she was also followed by a psychologist – but it helped her. »

Gratitude is a tool used in therapy. Because it allows you to see “the other side of life”, extends positive psychology researcher Rebecca Shankland (see markers)remedying the “negativity bias”. According to this approach, the human being would retain more easily “the negative of life than the positive”, she explains. A bad memory would be more striking than a good one. It would be a “adaptive mechanism”, linked to evolution: to survive, man has had to remember the dangers that surround him. “But today, it is less necessary because humans are less about survival. Hence the idea of ​​training to regain fleeting positive feelings in order to rebalance our vision of life. »

This skill is learned

This ability can be learned, she promises. On their scale, young parents also savor the benefits of “thank you”, as evidenced, for example, by Vanessa, mother of Quentin, 9 years old, and Ambre, 12 years old. “For the youngest, it’s not quite acquired yet”, she concedes, but she doesn’t give in. Without the “magic word”nothing is granted! “It’s important to understand that not everything is due. »

No need to start too early though. Thanking supposes understanding that the person has made an effort to please, “what happens while running from kindergarten”, resumes Rebecca Shankland.

Sibyl, 6 months, snuggled up in the arms of her mother Tiphaine, still has time. Nevertheless, his parents already know that they will be keen to teach him gratitude, as they received it from their Catholic upbringing. “It’s a question of civic respect, a way of giving importance to people”, justifies Tiphaine. “I think it’s beautiful and quite demanding, in factphilosopher Silvere. One might think that this is an admission of weakness, but in fact it is the opposite. It’s not so easy to say “Thank you”. It’s like saying “I love you” or “Congratulations” to someone. It is sometimes hard but necessary. » Yvonne, Sibyl’s great-grandmother, agrees: “At every age, we have reasons to say thank you. For my part, I thank life for allowing me to see my great-grandchildren. »

Understand that we always owe something to others

Beyond that, Gildas and Élodie would like their two daughters Alice and Zoé, aged 7 and 5, to know how to receive the gifts of life. These globetrotters live in Reunion, where they work in care. For them, a successful education consists in showing that one always owes something to others, and that one should not cower in selfishness. For this, they can count on meetings. “For example, last year we were in Italy when the car got stuck in a small path. A resident gave us hospitality, and we felt very indebted. The girls have understood what it means to thank,” believes Elodie. This little life lesson will accompany them for a long time, she hopes.

This recognition, the fact of knowing that one owes to others, is one of the conditions of living together and citizenship throughout life, notes, on a completely different level, Catherine Arenou, Mayor of Chanteloup-les -Vignes, a town in Yvelines. In this poor town, a big financial effort is made for the youngest. But the generosity of taxpayers is not a one-way street, she warns. This is the case with the ceremonies for handing over the calculator offered by the city to any new schoolboy. “I distribute them myself, illustrates the mayor, but if ever I do not hear a thank you, I do not hesitate to take it back. You still have to express your gratitude to the community that offers this gift. »

Similarly, the city grants €1,200 per year for three years to each scholarship student. But there again, no question of just pocketing: “In exchange, they must complete three days of free work for the city: entertainment, presence with seniors, etc. » Result ? “They are all delighted. It feels good to give back and say thank you. » A decidedly unanimous observation.


To read

♦ My Gratitude Notebook, by Anne-Sophie Chauvet, Ed. Emmanuel, 2022, 128 pages, €12.90.

In a spiritual approach, and in the style of a diary, this notebook teaches the youngest to appreciate the gifts of life.

From the age of 8.

♦ The powers of gratitude, by Rebecca Shankland, Ed. Odile Jacob.

Positive psychology intends to consolidate what is going well in man, to strengthen his resources. In this perspective, the researcher from the University of Grenoble Rebecca Shankland analyzes the contributions of the feeling of gratitude on a daily basis.

A year to learn to say thank you