We've heard it all before -- gratitude is good for you. In fact, the more you practice it, the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits, such as positive feelings of well-being and decreased feelings of depression.
But if we are consciously aware of how important and impactful expressing gratitude is, then why do so many of us procrastinate about sending thank-you's to those who deserve them?
According to University of Texas at Austin professor Amit Kumar, senders "think it's not going to be that big a deal." According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, it's all a matter of underestimating the positive feelings a thank you can bring to someone who receives it.
Recipients of thank-you notes who participated in the study indicated that they felt "ecstatic" after receiving written gratitude -- scoring a happiness rating of 4 or 5. However, senders generally guessed that their letters would evoke just a 3 on the scale, hardly worth the effort.
Even further, the study also finds that those who don't send out a thank-you letter or note may tend to overestimate how uncomfortable it will make the recipient feel. In addition, it is likely that these senders think the note will appear more insincere than it actually is.
Along with underestimating the value of sending a gratitude note, many participants were concerned with how much their writing would be critiqued by those who received it.
However, most recipients of thank-you notes in the study -- led by Dr. Kumar and his co-author Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago -- said they cared more about warmth, and less about how the notes were phrased.
Are you still not sure where to start with your thank-you note? Do you need a few tips on how to expressing gratitude effectively?
According to Margaret Shepherd in The Art of the Handwritten Note, creating a proper thank-you note is simple: "Your thank-you note should recapture the smile, handshake, or hug you would give the giver in person," she says, "and offer it in a form that can be read and reread."
Ultimately, don't overthink how your gratitude will be received -- be sure to express it. And right now would be a good time to start.