A Plea for Thank-You Notes

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Most people who know me know that I’m not the forerunner of propriety. I’m usually that person who is pushing the edge of what is acceptable, the person who is always asking, “But why?!?” Still, there is one area in which I am staunchly, relentlessly conservative, and that is in writing thank-you notes.

When my mother was ill, we were fortunate to have a plethora of friends, family, and fellow churchgoers who brought a steady stream of food and goodies to our home. My mother kept a journal, and in it was a running list of names of people and the items that they had brought. Even a mere couple of months out from her death, when cancer and cancer drugs had infected her brain and her handwriting had become large and shaky, she was writing every single one of them back. She must have written hundreds.

A few months ago, I found a good deal on thank-you notes at Target, and since I really liked them and was in the throes of wedding planning, I put nearly two hundred cards in my cart. When I got up to the cash register, the clerk looked at me with this blank stare and said, “You have a lot of gratitude.” I shrugged and explained that I was getting married, which didn’t seem to clear up anything for the clerk.

The thing is, though, I do have a lot of gratitude. I am so grateful for all the friends and family who have supported me through the years, and a little paper card seems like a small price to pay for that.

But this blog is not about manners and decorum. It’s about finding happiness. And this is why I am making a plea for thank-you notes. Studies have shown that gratitude actually has a very strong positive association with happiness. When we express our gratitude, we connect with something greater than ourselves, which has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to boost happiness. The benefits of this vary from helping us feel more positive emotions, to helping us deal with difficult times, to strengthening our social bonds.

In a world of selfies and status updates, it’s easy to forget that showing our love to those outside of ourselves has real personal benefits, not just because it’s the “right thing to do” (although that is certainly a good reason), but because it’s what we as human beings were wired to do. We are social animals, and it’s only natural and healthy to share our appreciation for others. So, the next time someone does something nice for you, consider writing a note to thank them. You may make their day, and you may give yourself a spark of happiness to boot.

 

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