It’s good to recognise what’s good in your life (even, and especially, when it seems as though the rest is terrible). But if you express that in the form of gratitude journals, prayers or meditation, you’re sort of making that feeling a solitary one. What about the people in your life you’re truly thankful for? Couldn’t you tell them how you feel?
Well, no, a lot of us might say. That sounds super awkward.
If you’ve ever done it though, you may have found your recipient is more likely to feel touched than awkward. We think this is mostly common sense, but a recent study gives us some backup.
Students in a business school were asked to write a letter to a classmate or to another person in their life “explaining why they were grateful to this person and to describe what this person did for them and how it affected their life”.
If the letter writer and recipient were both willing, the researchers surveyed both about how they felt about the letter. Compared to what the letter writers predicted, recipients were more surprised, more positive (happy) about it, and less awkward.
The researchers did similar experiments with other groups of people, with similar results.
Not every recipient filled out the survey, and there are other caveats, so maybe this isn’t a totally solid, guaranteed-true kind of finding.
But it’s probably fair to take this as a push in the right direction: Get over yourself and send that sappy text or email or thank-you note to someone who’s made a difference in your life.