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How being kind to others benefits you mentally

You’re rushing to a catch a subway – intense and focused on catching your train. An observer might think that you were a roller derby star in a past life, as you have no problem pushing your way to a place in line.

Not that you’re overly aggressive, just assertive so that when the doors open you’re positioned to get on board fast, because by the time the subway gets to your stop it’s usually full and one must move quickly to get on.

While jostling to get in line you notice the person next to you beginning to slip. Your reflexes kick in and you grab their arm to help them regain their balance and inside the door – all in one move.

They look you in the eye and say thank you. You smile back and say, “My pleasure; happy to help.” After some small talk, the next stop comes quickly, and the person gets off.

As the other rider leaves the train you notice how good you feel inside that your help was recognized; their thank-you changed your mood. You find it interesting how a three-second event positively impacted your mental state. As you get off the train, you decide you’ll be gracious with your thank-yous, so you can share the good feeling a simple gesture of gratitude can create.

The incident reinforces the point that while there’s so much rushing in life you can still find time to be helpful and to show gratitude.

This micro skill reminds us of the psychological benefits we can create for others and ourselves by sharing two powerful words: thank you.


Research has determined that people who are appreciated by a simple thank-you demonstrate a 50 per cent increase in their willingness to help.

The gift of a thank-you is positive for both giver and receiver:

For the giver, it creates a positive emotional state that supports the release of feel-good brain chemicals.

For the receiver, it can positively impact their social value and increase self-worth and the likelihood they will want to help the thanker.

Adam Smith is a leading expert in the value and benefits of expressing public gratitude such as saying thank you to another person. His research suggests that if done frequently it’s an important ingredient in creating healthy communities and helping reduce stress.

The first step is to become aware that saying thank you is good for your own and others’ mental health.


Many of us remind ourselves each day how busy we are and how little time we have. However, we’re never so busy that we can’t take a second to say thank you to someone who does something to help us.

People rarely acknowledge someone they’re riding with on an elevator. Someone pressing your floor button or holding the door for you are opportunities to acknowledge them and say thank you.

There’s ample evidence to suggest that thanking people who help us is good for their health and ours. In a world that’s racing, we each have choices of how we want to interact with the world.

It doesn’t take much effort, only commitment and acceptance of the benefits to ourselves and others to look for opportunities to say thank you.


Obtaining the benefits of saying thank requires only intention and authenticity.

Monitor for missed opportunities – Scan your day quickly and self-evaluate missed opportunities where you could have given a thank you but did not. This can increase awareness and break down some of your point A to point B autopilot behaviours. A thank you is simply acknowledging someone else’s actions to help – no matter how small. Noticing how you behave can increase the likelihood you will create opportunities to say thank you.

Observe – Notice how you feel when you say thank you sincerely – and how the other person reacts. Saying thank you can be done in many forms, from words, to short handwritten notes, to e-mails. Research suggests that it’s wise not to under-estimate the power of civility and how intentional acts as simple as saying thank you can have a positive psychological benefit for both receiver and giver. A simple prescription that can help you feel better and aid your mental health is to freely give out intentional and authentic thank yous.

Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at the Conference Board of Canada, and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

You can find other stories like these at

The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2019 winners of the award at this link.

Registration for the 2020 Employee Recommended Workplace Award opens April 3. Register at this link.

For more information about the award go to You can also purchase the benchmark report that outlines findings from 2018 at this link here.

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