The Gratitude Email Experiment

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Ward

A 2018 study looked at the impact of writing a simple email message of gratitude to another person. The researchers found that the person writing the letter often underestimated the surprise and positive impact that such a message had on the recipient. Such underestimation may well prevent many of us from engaging in such a simple but impactful task, so here is a life experiment to cultivate the positive habit.

  1. Commit to writing a brief but genuine thank you message to a different family member, friend, or co-worker for 10 consecutive days.
  2. Set aside 3-5 minutes in the morning, late afternoon, or early evening for this task, perhaps even blocking it off in your calendar.
  3. This might be a response to a message from them, a follow up to something that that they did for you, a result of a shared project, or perhaps a result of a meaningful conversation with the person.
  4. It can be a thank you for something that they just did, or maybe this experiment prompts you to reach out to a person from your past.
  5. Keep it simple and genuine.
  6. Keep the style appropriate for your relationship with the person (co-worker, friend, family member).
  7. After 10 days, spend 10-15 minutes reflecting on the experiment. How did it feel to write these messages? Did you receive any replies (it doesn’t really matter if you did, but it might be interesting to explore or consider)?
  8. Consider whether you want to make this an ongoing habit, perhaps something that you do daily, weekly, monthly, or just develop the habit of doing as an integrated part of your other email messages to people.

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