As a kid and —let’s be honest—often even now, I tend to send out thank you cards later than propriety demands.
Frequently I’ll even write them and never get around to sending them.
While this is not a good way to maintain friendships, it turns out even just doing that has a salutary effect on one’s mental health.
In “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” written by two Ph.Ds from Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, they quote a study done on 300 adults receiving mental health counseling at the university. Compared to those who didn’t write at all as part of their health regimen, or those who focused their writing on sorrowful topics, people “who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended.”
Here’s the kicker (and encouraging part for me): even though only 23% of those who wrote thank you letters sent them, both the group of “senders” and “non-senders” still experienced greater positive emotions and longer-term, faster-acting effects on their mental health.
While I don’t advise writing a heartfelt thank-you note and not sending it, it’s noteworthy to recognize that the simple practice of being grateful and expressing it may actually improve health.
Sounds good, right?
Many of us have our parents to thank for teaching us about thank you notes. Unfortunately, because of that, they have the potential–for example, for me–to initially feel like a chore rather than a joy.
However, my response to this internal argument is two fold: they bless another person AND they affect your health positively. Booyah, I’m into it.
Thank you notes are not the only way to get the benefits of practicing gratitude, though. Whether written, verbal, or simply internal, practicing gratitude will likely affect you positively, during a season, which many will admit, is supposed to be all warm and fuzzy but really yields much anxiety and heartache for many.
Care for yourself this season by instituting small moments of gratitude through encouragement of others, in prayer, affirmations, and/or living mindful of things in life you enjoy and appreciate.
A new holiday is coming up, too, Giving Tuesday.
Check out the stories and get involved here!