As a child, my mom taught me the value of a well-written thank you note . . . and those early lessons stuck with me for life.
Although many people look at it as a chore, I actually enjoy writing thank you notes. I've always loved sending (and receiving) mail. I love to choose my pen and the just-right piece of stationery. I get to think about the person I'm writing to and formulate the words I'm going to use. And I get to express my heartfelt gratitude.
It's also the right thing to do! According to Margaret Shepherd in The Art of the Handwritten Note, it takes some effort to express your gratitude properly. Shepherd tells us, “Your thank-you note should recapture the smile, handshake or hug you would give the giver in person, and offer it in a form that can be read and reread.” She also describes the five characteristics of a well-written thank you note: generous, specific, prompt, succinct, and personal.
Apparently, writing thank you notes is good for your brain, too! Research shows that written acts of gratitude have long-term effects on feelings of wellbeing and reduced depression. Performing "gratitude tasks" (including acknowledging gifts through handwritten thank you notes) helps our brains to feel "extra thankful." Dr. Christian Jarrett, in the Science of Us, talked about a brain-scanning study published in NeuroImage, “which brings us a little closer to understanding why these [gratitude] exercises have these effects. The results suggest that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains are still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.” (It's that "vicious circle" I talked about yesterday again!)
Finally, hand writing thank you notes in today's age of Facebook, emojis, and text messages is just . . . cool! If you get a handwritten anything in your mailbox, don't you just rip right into it? (I know I do.) Sending a heart-felt, handwritten message to someone is the best way to express you gratitude. According to Florence Isaacs in Just a Note to Say, “When you write, there is no response to distract you from reaching within and exploring exactly what you feel and want to say. There is no mechanical equipment to act as a barrier." So . . . it's just you . . . and your words!
This month, as part of my gratitude practice, I decided to be intentional about writing thank you notes. I'm usually very good at writing notes when I receive a gift -- so this month, I'm trying to really dig a little deeper and write notes to people who've given me things that aren't necessarily . . . things. So far this month I've written notes to a neighbor who serves on our school board, to my art teacher, to the underpaid-and-overworked Master Gardener coordinator, and (thanks to a bit of digging from my sister) to my sewing teacher from junior high school! (And I'm not finished yet.)
How about YOU? Who can you send a thank you note to in this season of Thanksgiving?
(It's good for you!)