How (and Why!) to Write a Gratitude Letter

Soul Community Planet (SCP) fosters a culture of kindness and gratitude that starts with our SCP team and extends to our guests. And if our guests feel compelled to spread those warm feelings, we have an idea: Write someone a gratitude letter! 

We asked our friend Gina Hamadey to teach us how. She’s the author of I Want to Thank You: How a Year of Gratitude Can Bring Joy and Meaning in a Disconnected World, about the year she wrote 365 thank you notes and gratitude letters to friends, strangers, mentors, and more. Among the many benefits she experienced was a sense of calm and peace every time she sat down to write. (It made the recipients feel pretty great, too!)  Along the way she learned that while each gratitude letter is an original, there are some basic rules that will ensure your letter makes an impact.

Below are Gina’s five steps to writing a gratitude letter, plus her bonus do’s and don’ts.  If you are staying with us when you write your letter, just drop it off at the front desk: We’d be happy to mail it for you. 

HOW TO WRITE A GRATITUDE LETTER

STEP 1: Choose a recipient

You could write to anyone to whom you are thankful: a friend, neighbor, family member, career mentor. Think of someone whose words or actions have made a big impact on your life who you’ve never fully thanked before. 

STEP 2: Focus on the recipient. 

Spend a few moments thinking about that person—what they did for you; what they said; what it meant. You can jot down notes if you’d like. Make sure to clear out distractions—no podcasts or shows in the background; no kids to tend to. Spend just a few minutes really thinking about this person and what you want to thank them for. 

STEP 3: Be specific.

Once you’ve thought about what you’d like to say, write it down. As with any writing, evocative details will make the gratitude letter come to life. That could be the exact words you remember this person saying, and where you were when they said them. It could be the favor this person did for you, or the ways in which they championed you. It can be short! Just a few sentences should do it. And you can write your gratitude letter into an email if you prefer that to snail mail. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good here. 

STEP 4: Add how it made you feel—then and now. 

The recipient might know the event or favor you’re referring to, but they most likely don’t know how it made you feel (thankful, probably, but also, perhaps, joyful? Safe? Relieved?). When you write down specifics—not only what you remember, but how you felt—you are offering something new. It’s your unique perspective on a shared experience. And sharing that POV makes for a more interesting, meaningful letter. 

STEP 5: End with gratitude, and a compliment.

What does this favor or event say about the person? Is it indicative of their generosity or kindness? Say that explicitly, perhaps toward the bottom of the letter, and end with a final “thank you.” 

A GRATITUDE LETTER DOESN’T HAVE TO BE:

  • Comprehensive. Let go of the pressure to painstakingly describe everything this person means to you. You’d be surprised how meaningful three sentences can be. 
  • Timely. Gratitude letters are different from traditional confirmation-of-receipt thank you notes in that there is no statute of limitations. Go ahead and thank a teacher for lessons she imparted decades ago, or a friend for frozen meals she dropped off when your seven-year-old was born. It’s never too late to say thank you. 
  • Poetic. Don’t worry about crafting each sentence just so. You’re trying to get to the meaning behind the words, and the best writing is invisible. Try to write how you speak. 
  • Gorgeous. Letterpress cards are so nice, right? There’s nothing wrong with splurging on something beautiful, but it’s not important. Any card or paper will do. Same thing goes with handwriting: No one is expecting calligraphy. Just keep it legible enough.

A GRATITUDE LETTER SHOULD BE:

  • Specific. See above! Always opt for specific details over clichés. 
  • Heartfelt. It takes a little bravery, but writing sincerely and from the heart turns a polite and well-meaning note into a memento.

Once you write and send your first gratitude letter, don’t be surprised if you start thinking of other people to thank. Gratitude is contagious.


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