Showing gratitude can have so many benefits. When you tell the important people in your life how they've helped you become the person you are, you can deepen your relationships and make them feel good. And it can give you a greater sense of appreciation for everything others have done for you.
A few months ago, I read an article in Bella Grace Magazine that prompted readers to write a letter thanking their mom, or a mother figure in their life, for the lessons she taught them. Leading up to the empty page where readers were meant to write said letter were 52 quotes from others about what they’d learned from their own moms.
They ranged from the one sentence “Always be a lady” to long paragraphs about how she taught the writer to love sewing. I sat down to write a letter to my own mom, wondering if I’d be able to fill a page. We don’t get along and we never have. I love her so much, but we just don’t click and I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually learned from our tumultuous relationship.
I wrote the first lesson. Then another. With each point I added, I thought of three more. I filled the page and still had so many more thoughts, but I decided to save them for another time. Although that letter is still en route to her mailbox, it’s already changed our relationship. Now, each time she does something that normally would annoy me, I just feel an appreciation for her.
Last week, my anxiety was taking over and I was too overwhelmed to answer texts. After I didn’t respond to two of her texts, she Facebook messaged me. Then sent me messages on Instagram, followed by three emails and then a WhatsApp message. Most were funny videos or tasty looking recipes, some asked how my cat, who just had surgery, is doing.
This isn’t the first time she’s flooded me with communication when I’ve retreated inward. But it was the first time I didn’t get incredibly annoyed. I thought about how I’d written that she taught me how to love and felt a great sense of appreciation for how much she loved me; staying in touch was just one way she showed that.
I also think about how happy she’ll be when that envelope arrives. It’d be so nice to receive such a letter, to be able to hold in your hands a piece of paper listing all the positive ways you’ve impacted another human being. It’s a beautiful gift to both give and to receive, whether it’s from someone you have a complicated relationship with or a friend who knows all your darkest secrets but loves you anyways.
Why not find a paper and pen, and write a letter of your own, right now? Think of someone who you care about, but who maybe you don’t express your gratitude for enough. Then, decide exactly what you want to highlight.
Maybe, like the letter to my mom, you want to list all the important lessons they’ve taught you. To a friend who you admire but haven’t had the chance to get too close to, it’d be so nice to send them a list of your favourite qualities about them. That’d also be a fantastic route to go for someone who is dealing with depression or has low self-esteem.
For someone who moved away, it’d probably be so nice for them to receive a letter recounting the greatest times you’ve had with them or letting them know how they’ve impacted you. Let them know that even though they’re far away, they’ll always be your friend because of the effect they’ve had on your life.
Reflecting on loving relationships is also a great way to put yourself in a good mood; thinking about all the laughter and joy I’ve shared with friends lifts my spirits, at least.
Try taking 20 minutes to write and send a letter, then see what kind of effect it has on you and your relationship.
Having trouble putting your gratitute into words?
Try talking about in a