Thank You, Fellow People

(What is..) the one thing I’m most thankful for?

This innocent question has been haunting me.

I typically espouse the benefits of expressing gratitude towards people as the most powerful well-being booster:

  1. Name the action another person took to benefit you
  2. Acknowledge the effort they put into it
  3. Describe how what they did actually helped you.


Scientific research suggests you’ll experience a closer sense of connection, greater trust, warm fuzzy feelings, more satisfaction, greater sense of purpose, fewer self-focused stress-inducing thoughts, more meaning in your community, among other perks.

With that, then, for whom am I most thankful? My mother? Of course. My children? Undeniably. My spouse? Yes. My colleagues at work? I wouldn’t want to leave them out. Dear friends? Indeed. Strangers that smile generously from behind the wheel as I bike through the crosswalk in front of them? It’s the little things. “Friends” who post enviable luxuries, extraordinary privilege and pleasures on social media? When I can avoid social comparison and find vicarious joy — this is great. People who are unfriendly? If I can find compassion — yes — these are my “challenge'”teachers.

I suppose my best answer to this question, the one thing I’m most thankful for, boils up to a pretty big category: other people. People in the world around me who, by definition, are not me, but who are opportunities for me to practice gratitude and be a better person myself.

Homo sapiens are an extraordinarily social species. Our adaptive success lies primarily in the altruistic, collaborative behaviors we’re wired to seek. Our health and happiness, research suggests, relies explicitly on time spent socializing with others — and not feeling lonely [1, 2]. “Very happy people” always have rich support networks, and absence of social support is as much of a health risk as being a lifetime —> Read More