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7 Free Ways to Show Gratitude for Friends

Updated: Jul 19, 2022


Getting Real About Thanksgiving

Before we get into the fun stuff - a real note about Thanksgiving 2020. This Thanksgiving is pushing us to really reconsider the purpose and spirit of the holiday at its core. For starters, as we are having broader and better, deeper and necessary conversations about the truth of the Thanksgiving story, the genocide Native Americans suffered at the hands of Dutch Separatists/Pilgrims - and, later at the hands of the US government, and what it is we're actually even honoring when we gather around the turkey, Thanksgiving-as-usual is being rightfully challenged. Native American Heritage month is being observed this November, and just as Columbus Day is being reclaimed as Indigenous People's Day- shifting the celebration to the oppressed rather than the oppressor - perhaps soon we will begin to see a very necessary shift in focus as well for Thanksgiving. Add to this the fact that we are still living through a global pandemic, with many more cities and town locking down and further restricting movement as cases spike - and, with millions of Americans still planning to travel this holiday despite the warnings, nerves are shot and sparking. Folks who normally gather and love on each other this holiday are separated. Days off from work hit differently when we've been working from our "home office" (ie the bed/sofa/toilet/dining table/floor) for ten months.

BUT! But but but. Do you know what hasn't been cancelled this year, tarnished by racism, or undone by a spiraling airbone virus? FRIENDSHIP!

That's right lovies. Friendships might be feeling a little threadbare, a little parched, a little in need to watering, sunlight, and love. And to be honest, some friendships might have ended because of one - or all - the reasons listed above. But they're there, holding us down when we need backup, propping us up when we need encouragement. Friends right now can be a place where we vent when things become hard, a voice that normalizes the big waves of feelings we're having, a safe soft space, a reminder of what it is to laugh and be silly and forget the hard things around us for a moment. So, whether you're having a socially distanced gathering with a few folks in your pod, leaving stuffing platters on your doorstep from neighbors to pick-up, doing a Zoom cranberry sauce session, or saying nevermind to the holiday completely - this week is the PERFECT time to connect with your friends and show them how thankful you are not only for their friendship, but just for their existence. For their being themselves, for existing in the world. In this blog post, I'm going to share with you seven simple and FREE ways that you can show gratitude to your friends this week. These will make them feel loved and seen in ways that might really surprise you. They'll also bring the two of you closer in an authentic and heartfelt way that will breathe some fresh love and life into your relationship. Ready to get grateful? Let's go!

7 Free Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Friends

Way #1: Share Admiration

Often, our friends are super different from us. This can sometimes be a cause for conflict or disconnect. At times, it can create jealousy or competition.

On the bright side? It's also one of the amazing things about friendship: it gives us direct access to things we're not yet good at, habits we want to learn, ways we'd like to be, the person we're working to become.

This Thanksgiving week, why not take some time to really name what it is that you admire in your friends - and share that with them? Here's an example, from my own life. My best friend of over 22 years (yikes!) and I are complete opposites. She is a pediatrician who likes to have a clear task, steps laid out for accomplishing it, immediate feedback once it is accomplished. Give her a map and she'll follow it perfectly and she'll also get awards for how well she did it because she's awesome. She bought a house six years ago and will likely live there for many many years to come, nesting, decorating, building memories and a life between those four walls. Me? I am more of a squiggling line; I create my own path, get itchy when there's too much structure, have always made my own projects, jobs, and businesses, and haven't had a mentor or guide since I was 21. I've moved seven times in the past eight years. I really admire the ways in which my friend is able to create and hold strong boundaries. The work she does as a doctor and advocate is incredible. She balances two babies and a full-time job, she's compassionate but firm, she reads novels and runs and goes to therapy (ie takes care of herself). These are all things I struggle with - carving out "me" time, having any boundaries at all, and I worry often about whether the work I do impacts people deeply enough. She's an incredible mother, and she's really excellent at "adulting."

This week, I'm going to tell her how much I admire these qualities in her, and how they inspire me to prioritize myself better, take my work more seriously, and hold boundaries in toxic situations.

If you'd like to let a friend know what you admire about them, and how this inspires you, I made it super easy! You can simply download this image, and upload it to Canva to put in your own text on top, or print it out to write a note by hand.It's also formatted to Instagram story dimensions, so you can share it on stories and tag friends' handles to share what you admire in them!

Way #2: Listen Deeply & Reference Back

How amazing does it feel to be heard?Like, really heard - meaning that someone not only is giving you their full attention, but they're also hearing the subtext of what you're saying, they're remembering things you've said in the past, even perhaps thinking about what you're sharing in the greater context of knowing you?

This is one of the most beautiful things about a friendship - being listened to, respected, heard and held in an interested and engaged conversation.

This week, try showing your friend(s) gratitude and appreciation by deeply listening to them. Not sure how? Here are a few simple ways to start:

  • Follow up with a question about something they mentioned last week, checking in to see what they're now thinking or feeling about it. Start with "I remember you were talking about xyz and I've been thinking about it since - i wanted to check in, how is.....?"

  • Ask "how are you feeling this week?" and listen as they talk. If you have a hard time listening and you're talking over the phone, you can write down some of the important things they say and make reference to them later in the conversation, or on another day.

  • When they're sharing and it's your turn to respond, avoid giving advice or talking about yourself. In our Girls Gone Happy circles we often have a rule for feedback - you can ask a follow-up question, or reflect back something you heard the other person saying. That's it! Try this in your next conversation with a friend - only ask a follow up question, or share with them what you hear them saying. I promise, it totally changes the entire tone and depth of the conversation with this simple tweak, and they'll be really moved by how present and engaged you are.

Way #3: Be Proud

Similar to #1, but different in important ways - just as it feels so good to hear what someone admires about you, it also feels amazing to hear why they're proud of you! And once we become adults, we hear this less and less frequently, don't we? This week, how your friend how you're grateful for their presence and person by sharing why you're proud of them. This is different from admiration in a few important ways. When we share what we're proud of, we're naming things such as:

  • A way I have seen you grow over the past few weeks/months/year

  • Something you did recently that I know was hard for you and you did it anyway

  • A way that you chose yourself, took care of yourself, stood up for yourself

  • The way you've been managing a difficult situation in a way that is uniquely yours

  • Something you created or accomplished recently that is awesome

  • A way you said no to something recently that wasn't in your best interes

  • The way I saw you put a new healthy habit into action

When we share something we are proud of, it's usually pointing to a way our friend has grown, is taking care of themselves, has accomplished something special (even if to the rest of the world it might not seem like a big deal!), or the ways their character shines through in the way they move through their life.

Want to share with a friend how you're proud of them, but not sure where to start? We created this simple little checklist to make it really easy to give loving feedback to your friend, without starting from scratch! This is also formatted for Instagram Stories, so you can post, fill it in, and tag friends there - or, upload it to Canva to edit or, or print it and give it to a friend in person!

Way #4: Be On Blast!

Alright - this is a way to take your gratitude, and share it with the world! We've established how nice it is to feel appreciated, seen, heard, and admired - and for some folks, it feels great to have this shouted from the rooftops! Now, some friends might get squeamish with this kind of attention; some might seem squeamish but secretly love it; and others will just glow with the effort you've made to not only say what you love about them, but to also take the time and task to put it out there!

This is also a really special way to support your friends who are small business owners this season. So often, folks running small businesses are surprised to find that the people in their inner circle - their families and closest friends - often aren't the ones who support their ventures the most. They might forget, they're not your target audience, they think you're doing well and might not even realize how much each bit of encouragement and endorsement means.

Here are a few ways you can be on blast for your friends:

  • You can write an Instagram or Facebook post about why you're grateful for them and for their friendship, and tag them in it

  • If it's appropriate to reach out to someone they're connected to - like an organization they volunteer with, or even their workplace if you have an experience working with them - you can give a testimonial for what makes them an exceptional worker/volunteer, and how you were personally impacted by them

  • Keep an eye out for awards and contests that are a good fit for who they are and what they do, and take the time to submit a nomination for them when the opportunity arises.

  • If they have a small business, share it with folks you know who would love it over an email or a social media post

  • If you have a product from their small business, write a social media post about why you love it, with a photo of it

#5: Share a Wish

The other night, I had dinner on my friend's terrace in the dusk of Lisbon's sun setting over the river. Her cousin had been visiting for weeks and was returning to the US the next day, and we were (safely!) gathering outdoors to wish her well on her travels and her next chapter. We each went around the table and offered her a toast - most folks giving her advice, sending her off with a phrase to live by for the next stretch of time, a lesson they learned from their own twenties that they wanted to pass along. When it came to my turn, I wasn't quite sure what to say, so I decided to just speak from the heart. "You know that phrase you always say about yourself?" I asked her, refer to a snappy one-liner she had about her personality. "Yes...." she replied hesitantly. "Well, I love it, it's great," I fumbled. Then I found my footing. "But, it's not you. Not your whole you. It's a way you've learned to be because of what's gone on in your life. And my wish for you is that, in this next chapter, you can ensconce yourself in a community of friends where you get to choose being that way when it suits you - but it isn't a necessity for your survival. You can also choose to be a different way, if and when it suits you." The table got a little quiet. "My wish for you is that you can say to those ways you've learned to be, "Thank you, habit. You served a purpose and helped me stay safe, and I appreciate that. Your job is done now, and I don't need you any more." That's my wish for you, to have that choice" I repeated, also quietly. After a moment, she replied with a thank you, and questions for me about times when I let go of parts of myself that no longer served me, and whether I thought choice was a necessary element of freedom. As I took a taxi through the blurred night streets on my way home, I was reminded of our first Girls Gone Happy session back in 2015. I had everyone there draw different "hats" they wore in life (the drawings were hilarious and silly, but the conversation was profound). Then, everyone drew a "hat" for someone else in the room, a hat they'd like to gift them, and we went around the circle and shared these gifts with each other. "I give you the Sleep Mask Hat of Rest" "I give you the Feathered Top Hat of Confidence" "I give you the Chef Hat of Someone Else Cooking For You" and so on. The silliness of the hats allowed us to let our guards down, but man, let me tell you how profound it was to have folks give each other these free "gifts". Because to offer a gift like this, some big elements of deep friendship are satisfied:

  • I have listened to you deeply, and noticed the subtext of what you're saying.

  • I am invested in your happiness and well-being, without ulterior motive.

  • I have taken the time to think about you, and what would serve your highest good.

  • I am being brave enough to share this with you even if it might feel awkward, because I really care for you.

So, what's a wish you could share with a friend? A wish for something that they have control over - something inside themselves - so that we aren't left wishing for a circumstance we can't bring to fruition?

A wish for a way that they will feel more and more? A wish for how their self-perception will change so they can see in themselves what you already see in them? A wish for a new habit they will start? A wish for an old habit they will stop?

Way #6: Name Why They Matter (to you)

Friendships can absolutely change our lives. But how often do we really say this out loud? How often do we name the ways our friends have made our lives better? Getting really specific? Naming names? Being vulnerable? Well my friends, now is the time to do it. Not sure how to start? Here are a couple of ways you could approach it:

  • Because of your friendship, I was able to...

  • Because of the ways you've supported me, I have . . .

  • Because I know you, I am more . . .

  • You have brought _________ into my life, because you are . . .

Want some examples? Here you go:

  • Because of your friendship, I was able to get through losing a parent

  • Because of the ways you've supported me, I have had the courage to work for myself

  • Because I know you, I am more confident and grounded

  • You have brought peace into my life, because you are so calming and insightful

How to share this feedback? I would personally write down what I would like to say, and record it as a voice note to send on Thanksgiving morning. I will likely do this for 4-5 of my closest friends and do this while food is simmering on the stove and I have a moment with a cup of coffee. You could also simply send it as a text message, Instagram message, or email. If you have a group text with a cluster of friends, you could all agree to shower each person, one at a time, with a sentence of love, and then move on to the next person. This would be an AMAZING way to have a steady stream of loving friendship words throughout the day, even when you're far apart!

Way #7: Ask Great Questions

This one builds off #2, Listening Deeply. If you've spent any time around here at Girls Gone Happy, you know that we think this is maybe the absolute most important thing we can do for ourselves - and for each other. Great questions can literally change your life. When you're asked a great question at the right time, it can completely change your perspective on yourself, and your life. It can get you to think creatively about a problem and find a solution when before things seemed totally impossible (I have seen this happen firsthand, it's incredible!). Great questions can also make you feel loved, noticed, and understood on a whole other level, which elevates your happiness, your experience of connection to others, your feelings of safety and security, and support. What do we mean by "great questions," though? For us, great questions are all these things, though not necessarily all at once, all the time :) :

  • Surprising or unexpected

  • Neutral/non-judgmental

  • Responding to what we're really saying, which is sometimes the subtext to what we're saying on the surface

  • Real and based on genuine curiosity - not a statement or bait disguised as a question

If you'd like some examples of Great Questions, here are four cards from our Clarity Deck that give examples of what we mean here.

So, how to ask great questions? Using one of our Card Decks, it's exceptionally easy. You can:

Send a Hand-Picked Question

Go through the Card Deck and pull out a card that you think is a question that really resonates with what your friend is going through right now. Take a picture of them and text it to them, send it over Instagram, or even post it and tag them in it. Tell them why this Question Card reminded you of them, and you can also share with them what your wish is for them in thinking about this card (going back to #5!). Don't have a Card Deck? No worries! Check out this slider with four shareable images you can download and send with them super easily.

Over Video Call

If you have a Card Deck, do a video call with your friend, spread out your deck, have them point to the card they want. Then flip it over for them and let the question lead your discussion where it needs to go! If you don't have your own Card Deck yet, you can watch this video together. Have your friend think of something going on in their life where they'd like to have some support. Then, play this video, having them choose a Question Card. Once it's flipped over, discuss with them how this Question relates to the issue in their life they want to discuss!

In closing . . . this week isn't it!

There you have it lovies! Six ways to show your gratitude for FREE to friends this Thanksgiving season. And remember - friendships are magical, important, and life-giving 365 days of the year, so if you missed the stuffing window, never fear! Try these six tips whenever you have the bandwidth, and especially when you feel a bit of dust gathering on your friendship, and want to clear it off, water those plants, and shine some loving sunshine on them. Which one resonates the most with you? Drop a comment below, I'd love to hear which of these you're going to try, and which ones you enjoyed the most! Happy giving of thanks, friends. xoxo Justine Founder of Girls Gone Happy


  • This year, Thanksgiving feels very different because of deepening awareness of the true story behind the holiday, and the global pandemic still in full force

  • This is a great time to nurture your friendships - sharing your gratitude, appreciation, and love with your friends as we move into an uncertain winter, move away from historical narratives around Thanksgiving, and lean into what we appreciate and are grateful to have in our lives during this difficult moment

  • Simple, free ways to show your gratitude to friends include expressing what you appreciate about them; being fully presnt and actively listening in conversations; showing that you deeply know and see them by naming ways they've grown, and asking deep questions that get to the core of who they are; and sharing with the world what makes your friend wonderful, if and when it's appropriate.

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