The Power of a Handwritten Thank You: Why Gratitude Notes Still Matter
Updated: Nov 4
For the past ten years and during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we use the last five to seven minutes during each of our classes to focus on gratitude and putting thankfulness into motion by means of a handwritten thank you, or what we call a "grateful gram". A grateful gram is a hand-written gratitude note to someone you are grateful for. Then, after writing and addressing it, the grateful gram is handed back to our iGnite Leader. We then takes care of postage and makes sure that the grateful gram is in the mail before Thanksgiving.
Over the past ten years approximately 2300 grateful grams have been delivered to surprised and delighted recipients. As we continue this tradition this year, we're hoping we can exceed 2500 handwritten grateful grams.
The Scientific Proven Benefits of a Handwritten Thank you
This gratitude activity is a sweet and unexpected gift that feels just as good to write as it does to receive. The reason we started this tradition is because having gratitude and expressing gratitude is essential to living our best, most healthy and joy-filled life. Even though it's easy to see that people who are grateful are happier and healthier, for skeptics, this has been scientifically proven. Feeling and expressing fratitude has proven to have the following results:
Stronger immune system
Improves cardiovascular function
Less likelihood of depression
Deeper sense of purpose
Better coping strategies
Gratitude is Our Best Weapon
According to an excellent article in SUCCESS Magazine titled The Health Benefits of Gratitude, Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and founder/director of the Emmons Lab. Emmons and his team are at the forefront of a growing body of research that provides hard data to support the philosophy that gratitude can improve our health and reveals that "Gratitude is our best weapon, an ally to counter internal and external threats that rob us of sustainable joy. Left to our own devices, our minds tend to hijack every opportunity for happiness. Negativity, entitlement, resentfulness, forgetfulness and ungratefulness all clamor for our attention. Weighed down by negativity, we are worn down, emotionally and physically exhausted."
Gratitude Affirms Goodness Exists
Through various gratitude practices, Emmons and his colleagues have observed a wide range of psychological and physical benefits, ranging from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing anxiety and the risk of depression. Other researchers point out that expressing gratefulness also improves interpersonal connections—all from just taking a minute or two to stop and say “thank you” to a co-worker who helped you in a bind or a friend who baked you cupcakes. Emmons says, “In gratitude, we focus on the giftedness of life. We affirm that goodness exists, even among the rancor of daily life. This realization is freeing, redeeming. Gratitude works.”
Gratitude Reduces Stress and Depression
Research at UC Davis has linked gratitude with a 23 percent decrease in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. That relief alone can have far-reaching health benefits. For instance, in one Emmons study, subjects who kept a gratitude diary for two weeks showed a sustained 28 percent reduction in perceived stress and a 16 percent drop in
perceived depression. The UC Davis study also showed that two activities—counting blessings and penning thank-you let
ters—reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over six months. Subjects keeping journals took in less dietary fat by as much as 25 percent, and grateful respondents’ Hemoglobin A1c, a marker for diabetes, dipped by between 9 and 13 percent.
Express Gratitude Verbally or Hand-Written Note
Emmons says personal awareness of what we’re thankful for is only the first step. Expressing that gratitude, either verbally or through an action or gesture, is how we build successful and supportive relationships. “Without gratitude we’d be in relational ruin,” Emmons says.
Think of the people for whom you are grateful for and write a grateful gram to them or tell them in person.
Gracious God, Thank you for the abundant blessings that you have filled our lives with. Help us God, to stay focused on our blessings, all that is good and in return, be a blessing to everyone we encounter. Amen