Science says you should write those thank you notes

"Why you should write that thank-you note."
"Why you should write that thank-you note." 

When you're knee deep in nappies and battling sleep-deprivation, writing thank-you notes from your baby shower or for gifts kindly given after the birth of your bub is often the last thing you feel like doing. But with a new study suggesting that penning those notes increases wellbeing for the writer and recipient, perhaps it's a task we shouldn't put off. 

As part of the research published in Psychological Scienceparticipants in four different experiments were asked to write a thank you letter to someone who had done something nice for them and to then anticipate the recipient's reaction.

And, according to the findings, we're not very good judges.

In all three experiments, those writing thank you letters overestimated how "awkward" recipients would feel about receiving a note of thanks, and underestimated how surprised - and positive - they felt. 

"We looked at what's correlating with people's likelihood of expressing gratitude - what drives those choices - and what we found is that predictions or expectations of that awkwardness, that anticipation of how a recipient would feel - those are the things that matter when people are deciding whether to express gratitude or not," said lead author Amit Kumar.

Kumar also believes that not knowing what to say, or worrying about a thank you being misinterpreted, prevents many from expressing genuine gratitude.

"I don't think it's a societal thing," said Kumar. "It's more fundamental to how the human mind works and a well-established symmetry about how we evaluate ourselves and other people. When we're thinking about ourselves, we tend to think about how competent we are, and whether we are going to be articulate in how we're expressing gratitude."

But the takeaway message is clear: pick up the pen, don't stress about your writing ability, and simply scrawl away.

"What we saw is that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these, thoughtful ones and sincere ones," said Kumar. "It comes at little cost, but the benefits are larger than people expect."

So, if you're fastidious about writing thank you notes, even while in a newborn haze, rest assured they'll be appreciated.