“Show yourselves thankful.”—Colossians 3:15
The Bible encourages us to give thanks, and for good reason. Time magazine pointed out “People who describe themselves as feeling grateful . . . tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole.” In positive psychology research, gratitude, generosity, and happiness are always strongly correlated because gratitude makes people experience more positive emotions.
There are many ways to show gratitude, to list down briefly, here are some: smile, give compliments, listen, be considerate, volunteer, offer congratulations, give small gifts even without an occasion, handwrite letters, and keep a gratitude journal. You can also pay it forward, give tips, donate to charity, foster an animal, and write thank you notes. I would probably elaborate on each on a different post, but for now, I would like to focus on why we should write thank you notes more often.
When writing a thank you note, you don’t have to be a writer or poet. You just have to write down what you sincerely feel. But if you aren’t so confident, here’s some awesome tips on how to write a great thank you note. You can write thank you notes for close friends, family members, but you can also hand them to acquaintances, people you meet briefly but routinely like the deliveryman, the barista at your favorite coffee shop, or the cashier at your most visited book store. You can secretly see how they react when they read your note, and if they smile, I’m sure you’d smile to yourself too.
One reason that we feel happy when giving out thank you notes is affirmed by the bible verse, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’ (Acts 20:35) Even though it’s a simple gesture, giving (no matter what it is) is a motivation of sharing the happiness you have, in a way effecting receivers positively.
And because our body is wonderfully made, we know that the brain and particular chemicals play a role for us to have positive emotions. Neuroscience points out that giving thanks and receiving it involves releasing two neurotransmitters. The happiness hormones serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness, focus and calm, while dopamine is associated with feelings of rewards, motivation, and being productive.
Here are some of the benefits when you write and give thank you notes more often.
Feel More Positive Emotions
Being grateful is appreciating the little things, like encountering music on the streets, getting greeted by a street cat, or admiring a budding tulip. You’d be thankful to the Creator who provided these beauties that tend to be overlooked.
We thank God for these things through prayer, and we thank people by telling them personally, or through text, email, and even handwritten letters. Saying thanks has a ripple effect – to you, to the person you say it to, and to those who witness it, helping build trust and bonds with each other.
Time Magazine pointed out that showing gratitude is good for your health, and it is one of the easiest things you can exercise to increase your mental health. When emotional health is viewed in connection to feeling positive emotions, this actually makes sense. Disconnecting yourself from toxic and negative thoughts is like instantly switching on a light bulb to brighten what was a previously dark area.
Develops Patience and Self-Control
A research from Northeastern University concluded that the grateful are patient. It showed that having a good attitude of daily gratitude was significantly associated with increased patience in the form of decreased temporal discounting. In effect, those who are grateful also has stronger self-control. Psychological Science published a research that has found that gratitude reduces impatience for immediate gain and boosts control to resist cheating and other temptations.
Expressing gratefulness to your husband or wife is one way to keep in love. It is the same with other people around you. Letting them know how you appreciate them resonates positive feelings between the two of you. Thankfulness establishes a connection of fondness between two people.
Deal with Difficulties Better
No one enjoys hard times, but it is a constant in life. Having a prevailing attitude to be thankful gives one a cushion of psychological strength – a thinking that such unpleasant things too shall pass.
There are many reasons why sleeping for some isn’t easy, and one is having negative thoughts. On the opposite, if there are more positive thoughts, sleep is easy-peasy. And it’s not only having a good sleep but being able to sleep sooner.
As mentioned above, generosity, gratitude, and happiness releases serotonin and dopamine, serotonin (along with melatonin) has been known for many years to play a role in the modulation of sleep. That is why, it is a good practice to write thank you notes, to scribble on your gratitude journal, and to pray before you sleep. You carry those thankful thoughts as you drift off to dreamland.