Hand writing thank you notes could massively benefit mental wellbeing

Putting pen to paper could boost your mental wellbeing.

Amit Kumar, The University of Texas at Austin

It's a traditional pastime many of us don't partake in any more - but writing thank you notes could do great things for our mental health, according to new research.

A fascinating study from The University of Texas at Austin entitled 'Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation', shows that taking the time to write a thank you note can benefit your own mental wellbeing, as well as the person you're thanking.

Nowadays, we're much more likely to send over a quick text or message on social media, rather than taking the time to write a letter to say thank you.

The study argues, 'egocentric bias may lead expressers to systematically undervalue its positive impact on recipients in a way that could keep people from expressing gratitude more often in everyday life.'

Research done in the field of positive psychology concludes that 'gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships'.

But it's not just physical presents that are deserving of a note of appreciation.

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During three different experiments, researchers asked participants to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had done something nice for them. They were then asked to predict how the recipients would feel when they opened the letter.

Handwriting thank you notes could massively benefit mental wellbeing

Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming feeling was that the notes would make people awkward. However, the predictions couldn't have been more wrong.

“We looked at what’s correlating with people’s likelihood of expressing gratitude – what drives those choices – and what we found is that predictions or expectations of that awkwardness, that anticipation of how a recipient would feel – those are the things that matter when people are deciding whether to express gratitude or not,” said Amit Kumar, whose findings were published in the journalPsychological Scienceat the University of Texas at Austin.

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“People often fret that they won’t be able to express their appreciation eloquently enough. When we’re thinking about ourselves, we tend to think about how competent we are, and whether we are going to be articulate in how we’re expressing gratitude,” he said.

“What we saw is that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these, thoughtful ones and sincere ones. It comes at little cost, but the benefits are larger than people expect.”

Lauren Hughes
Lauren Hughes

Lauren is deputy editor at woman&home.com in the UK and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren has worked on the woman&home brand for four years. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine. After starting out working for a local paper in Yorkshire, her journalism career took her to Bristol where she hunted out stories for national papers and magazines at Medavia news agency, before landing a job in London working as a lifestyle assistant.


Lauren loves helping people share their stories, bringing experiences to life online, honing her interview techniques with everyone from authors to celebrities, headteachers to local heroes. As well as having a good nose for a story, Lauren has a passion for the English language and years of experience optimizing digital content to reach the widest audience possible. During her time at w&h, Lauren has worked on big brand campaigns like the Amazing Women Awards and assisted in developing w&h expert-approved Buyer's Guides—the place to go if you're looking to splash out on an important purchase and want some trusted advice. In addition to her journalism career, Lauren also has a background in copywriting for prestigious brands such as Inhabit Hotel, eco-development K'in in Tulum, social enterprise The Goldfinger Factory and leading London architect Holland Harvey, using language in all its glorious forms, from detailed guidebooks to snappy social content. 


A big fan of adventure, Lauren is also a keen travel writer and loves sharing tips on where to find the best places to eat, drink, and be merry off the beaten track. Lauren has written a series of travel guides for London hotels and loves sharing her insights into a destination's cultural and culinary offerings. If you need a recommendation on any UK destination, she's more than happy to help. At the weekend, you'll usually find her hanging out with her pet cat (or anyone else's pet she can get her hands on), escaping to the countryside, or devouring a good book. 


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