We like to think of gratitude messages as a two-for-one gift. Not only do they make the person they’re directed toward feel great (of course), but they have a way of boosting our moods too.
An expression of gratitude is likely to elicit a positive response, which creates a feedback loop that fosters good feelings in both parties.”
—Dr. Franklin Porter, psychologist in New York
The research backs him up. In one recent study, researchers looked at the effects expressing gratitude has on mental health. They asked participants who were currently seeking counseling to either write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, journal about their experiences in the same timeframe, or do nothing aside from receiving counseling. The results? Compared with the other two groups, the gratitude letter writers reported “significantly better” mental health in both the short-term and the long-term. And we’re talking long, long-term here. The results lasted 12 full weeks after their writing exercise ended.
So in other words, expressing your gratitude for the awesome people in your life feeds the feel-good center in your brain.
10 Gratitude Messages that Go Way Beyond Thank You
With that in mind, we should be sending thank-you messages to the people we care about regularly. But let’s be real here—since daily gratitude messages probably aren’t realistic (and maybe even less effective), we typically rely on special occasions to express our appreciation. Like Mother’s Day.
We know you’re busy (same) and you might not have time to go beyond the card and flowers. That’s where we come in. We’ve put together some ideas for gratitude messages that are research-backed and expert-approved. So you can put your time into showing your appreciation in a meaningful way instead of searching the deepest realms of the internet for how to do it.
And just a heads-up—this isn’t only for people with kickass relationships with their biological moms. Mother’s Day is a great excuse to tell all the women you’re grateful for–whether that’s another role model or a whole posse of women— how much you appreciate them.
One more thing before we get started: We’re using “message” in a broader sense here. This isn’t all about giving thanks through writing. There are tons of other ways to show gratitude that don’t involve total mastery of the written word. And, with the help of a few therapists, we’re going to give you 10 of them.
1. Give her a gratitude journal…with the first page filled out
Borrowing a page from the research on gratitude letters, start a special gratitude journal that lists the reasons you’re grateful to have your mom (or another important woman) in your life, says Rebecca Hendrix, a holistic psychotherapist in New York. “List five to ten reasons [and] how each has made you feel,” she says. For example, “I am so grateful you taught me how to make your mother’s famous lasagna. I love being able to carry on a special history with you.”
Bonus? Give her a Panda Planner. With sections for jotting down what she’s grateful for, prioritizing tasks, and celebrating the positive, Panda Planner can help her reclaim her happiness and flourish this Mother’s Day. And every day.
2. Clear your calendar
It doesn’t have to be all about the gifts. Block out some real time in your calendar to spend with the women who are important to you. Carve out a night for a deep dive video chat or set aside an entire day for an in-person catch-up. No matter how often you talk, nothing beats the gift of quality time.
3. Plan a trip
To make the women in your life feel extra special, you have to do something special—“something out of the ordinary, that reflects effort and considers her particular likes and interests,” Porter says. Make this the moment to plan a trip to the one place she’s been talking about forever. Research actually shows that we feel more gratitude for experiences rather than material goods. So plan the trip together so you can both get excited about the experience you’ll share.
4. Make a toast
Another way to deliver gratitude messages is by going public, says Porter. Host a dinner with friends and family and toast the woman of the hour, focusing on what you most admire. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley anecdotally found that publicly expressing appreciation for the things someone has done for you can “prompt the viral spread of gratitude.”
5. Give her the love she loves
“The way mom gives love is likely the way she also enjoys receiving it,” says Hendrix. Understanding how the women you love like to receive love can make your expression of gratitude even more meaningful.
Here’s how to do it: If mom often treats you to a nice dinner when she’s in town, make a reservation for her. If she sends you video messages to help pep you up before a life event, put together a video with her loved ones detailing all the ways in which she’s amazing.
6. Make a scrapbook
K, so this one might not be so unique. But it’s a classic for a reason. For a big gratitude punch, start from the beginning of your relationship and include both images and text.
“Write down a few of your favorite moments and share what made those moments special for you,” says Hendrix. Then add photos that represent what you enjoy doing together and capture some of your most memorable adventures. Instant keepsake. And probably tears.
7. Return the support she’s given you
Not all expressions of gratitude are created equal. Giving an important woman in your life an emotional speech in someone else’s words won’t be quite as meaningful as something that specifically speaks to your relationship, says Matt Lundquist, a counselor in New York.
“With moms, gratitude that’s connected to a particular story from childhood— such as a time when you were especially trying or she was particularly stellar— is likely to have the most meaning,” he explains.
Here’s an example: If your mom always ran errands for you when you were swamped with school, treat her to a month of free grocery delivery so she can reap the benefits of a taken-care-of to-do list.
8. Send an unexpected surprise
If writing a sentimental card isn’t your thing, you can show your appreciation through small moments that will brighten her day.
Venmo the special woman in your life $5 for her morning coffee. Or send her a funny YouTube video if you know she has a stressful meeting coming up. “Unexpected manifestations of gratitude may make more of an impact,” adds Porter.
9. Continue a tradition
Use the woman you’re so grateful for as inspiration. If she celebrates Mother’s Day by sending a specific kind of flower to her mom or favorite aunt, pick up the torch. More than just a gesture of your own appreciation, you’re also showing her you value the legacy she’s leaving in your own life.
“When you show this gratitude to your mom, you help her experience and anchor in feelings of being seen and knowing she matters,” says Hendrix.
10. Help her reach a goal
Chances are, the most important woman in your life has helped you do a lot. Show the depths of your gratitude by helping her achieve a goal she’s been working toward. Research shows that having a support network to help keep you accountable makes you more likely to achieve your goals.
Be Mom’s training partner (virtual counts too) as she gears up for a half marathon. Help her set up an Etsy store so she can take her entrepreneurialism up a notch. Or sign up for beginner’s music lessons together.
The best gratitude messages come from paying attention
Take a closer look at the important woman in your life and see how she shows her love. These cues point you in the right direction and will ensure that your gratitude messages are heard loud and clear.
Your turn: Which of these gratitude messages are you most likely to send this Mother’s Day? How do you send a message of thanks and appreciation to the important women in your life? Tell us more in the comments.
Want to learn more about the science behind how gratitude makes you happier? Check out these 5 Ways to Get Good at Gratitude This Year
Author: Macaela Mackenzie
Macaela Mackenzie is a freelance writer and content strategist. When she doesn’t have her nose in a research journal or the New York Times, she’s likely to be found looking for punny greeting cards or an excuse to explore a new travel spot.