Whether it’s taking a day off from technology or writing thank you notes, reconnecting to traditional forms of communication has been shown (scientifically!) as an excellent means for improving our health and well-being. Handwritten notes are also a way of connecting on a more authentic level.
Let’s be honest, when I find a handwritten letter or card in the pile of bills and junk mail, I’m overjoyed! It’s exciting to get something in the mail that is fun and interesting, instead of stressful and boring.
5 Reasons Handwritten Thank You Notes Still Rule
Obviously, sending thank you notes for gifts or kind gestures received is simply the right thing to do. While most of us probably tend to just send our thanks digitally, there are many reasons to put the effort into a handwritten note over, say, a quick text, email, or Facebook message.
1. Improves Mood
It makes sense that being grateful for what we have could boost our mood. If we’re focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t, we are more aware of all that there is to be grateful for. Gratitude is self-promoting in that the more you practice it, the easier it is to see what we have. As gratitude becomes a habit it’s almost impossible to not notice even small blessings. It goes deeper than common sense though: scientific research also shows that gratitude can have a positive effect on overall well-being by increasing happiness and decreasing depression.
2. Good for Physical Health
When psychological health increases, physical health isn’t far behind. A 2013 study on the connection between gratitude and physical health shows that those who expressed gratitude were less likely to experience aches & pains and felt healthier overall. What’s more, a small 2016 pilot study on patients with heart disease found that keeping a gratitude journal may “improve biomarkers related to (heart failure) morbidity, such as reduced inflammation.”
Studies also show that grateful people tend toward healthier activities and seeking help for health concerns. The idea is that when you’re happier in life (which gratitude can provide), you may make healthier choices (like exercising and not smoking).
3. Helps You Stand Out
Whether it’s to acknowledge a gift from your grandmother or as a relationship-building tactic after a job interview, sending a thank you note can help you stand out amongst the rest. Handwritten thank you notes are so infrequent in our digital age that when one is received, it makes a statement. It’s not a matter of trying to be Grandma’s favorite (though that’s a nice bonus!) but sending a handwritten note says that you truly appreciate the other person.
4. Fosters Connection
Technology has made it possible for us to be connected all the time, but it might be at the expense of real relationships. One of the best ways to build a relationship and keep communication open is to express gratitude.
It’s so easy to send a quick text or Facebook message to show your appreciation (and that’s much better than not expressing gratitude at all) but a handwritten note says so much more. It says “thank you” of course, but it also says, “I spent the extra time to write this note by hand because your generosity is so appreciated.”
5. Revives a Lost Art
Note and letter writing is getting exceedingly rare as we invent new ways to communicate digitally, but we all thoroughly appreciate and enjoy a handwritten note amongst our bills. Handwritten thank you notes are also longer living than digital communication. Emails are often deleted right after being read, but thank you cards can be displayed and enjoyed for weeks, months … or even a lifetime!
How to Write a Thank You Card (That Stands Out)
There are many benefits to writing thank you cards and notes, but how do you actually write one? While (I hope) most adults still know the basics of writing a proper thank you note, it’s not something that is taught in school these days, so here’s some tips on how to do it in case you want to teach your own children (or need a personal refresher as well).
- Grab some cute stationery. Nice stationery sends the message that the recipient is special enough to get a special note. (Bonus if you can find some recycled paper stationery. I haven’t tried these seeded note cards yet but I love the idea!)
- Think through what you want to say before starting. One aspect of writing notes is that they are permanent. (There’s no delete key on paper!)
- Begin with a greeting that you would use in person but also consider the recipients. If they are old fashioned greeting them with Dear Mr. & Mrs. So-and-so may be best, while a thank you note to a best friend could start with her first name.
- Next, thank the recipient for the gift, gesture, or other reason you’re grateful for them. Even better, explain why you like it or how you plan to use it. If it was a gesture or favor, explain what it meant to you.
- Personalize your message. It’s easy to write a form thank you note, especially if you’re writing many at once (like after a wedding or baby shower), but adding some personality and an invitation to continue to keep in touch will show appreciation and desire to continue a relationship. This could be an invitation to dinner, or a heads up to when you’ll be in town again (and that you’d like to see them).
- Use your best penmanship. Good penmanship may not be a skill that is valued as much in a digital society, but it has the double effect of making the note’s message legible and contributing to the overall presentation or “gift” of the note. Each person’s handwriting is uniquely theirs and that adds some personality to the card.
- Don’t be too formal. Use humor, idioms, or slang if it suits your personality and your recipient.
Thank You Note Writing for Kids
Did you ever have to write thank you notes as a kid? I remember hating it. It was boring, plain and simple. But as an adult, I appreciate having learned to express gratitude. Research shows that children who express gratitude report less envy, materialism, and depression, as well as better grades and relationships.
So, how can we help our kids learn to write thank you notes without boring them to death? Here are some tips:
- Make it fun! Get out special paints, stickers, and other embellishments that are reserved for thank you cards only. Grab some snacks and make it a fun time.
- Don’t badger kids about getting them done. Offer assistance if necessary and be encouraging. Don’t make it a chore.
- Lead by example. Make a big deal about sitting down to write a thank you note for a gift you received. Explain how it affects your happiness and what it will mean to the recipient.
- For little kids, use or create a thank you note template like this one that only requires them to write a few words or draw a picture of the item.
- If possible, have kids deliver thank you notes in person, or watch the receiver open it over a video call so they can see the effect sharing gratitude has on others!
I’m so glad the practice of expressing gratitude and writing notes of appreciation to others was instilled in me from an early age. If you’re looking for a positive new habit to adopt this year, I’d encourage you to consider taking up this one, as it makes everyone’s lives a little bit happier!
Do you write thank you notes? What are your tips for making them special (and getting them done)?
Are thank you notes a thing of the past? They shouldn't be! Learn the research-backed ways expressing gratitude not only feels good for the sender and the receiver, but also benefits physical health!