The Art of Gratitude

A photo of a woman signing a letter

Each day brings dozens of opportunities to say “thank you.” From borrowing a cup of sugar to checking out at the cash register to receiving compliments, voicing thanks is a way of life in the South. Being polite is part of the culture. But going a step further to truly convey gratitude is an art of its own.

Anytime a person expresses an out-of-the-ordinary act of kindness, consider showing your gratitude in a tangible way. Whether it’s for a gift or a favor received, a thank-you note helps the person know how much you appreciated it—and them. “Sending a handwritten thank-you note is always an elegant thing to do when someone does a favor for you or gives you a gift,” says Kelly Browne, author of 101 Ways to Say Thank You.

How to Say “Thanks”
Saying “thanks” is important, but how you say it speaks volumes. “Part of your thank-you note is the stationery you choose to write it on,” Kelly says. “It makes a statement about your personality and the elegance or spirit of the occasion for your note. And it is the first thing your recipient notices.”
 Though Kelly prefers Crane & Co. Stationery because “it’s high quality, affordable, and feels fabulous,” the sources for beautiful papers are countless. Monogrammed notes, linen finishes, watercolor embellishments, earth-friendly stock—stationery comes in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to express your appreciation in a personal way. To see the latest and greatest offerings, search the Internet, and visit sites such as,,, or
When you feel a note alone isn’t enough, get creative. “Do something gracious for someone else,” Kelly says. “Gifts of home-baked cookies, flowers, or a plant are also appreciative thank-yous. Even a package of seeds is fun when placed inside a special card.” 
Thank-yous aren’t just for occasions and acquaintances. Those closest to you deserve to hear how much they’re valued as well. “Remember, the people in your life will come and go,” Kelly says. “Some of those people 
make an indelible mark on our hearts and souls, never to be forgotten. It happens that the moments pass so quickly, and we don’t know how to stop and say, ‘You have meant so much to me.’ Whether it
 be your best girlfriend, spouse, a grandparent, child, friend, or teacher—sometimes we take time for granted when we think we have forever. But we only have this moment.” It’s time to make the most of it.

Making It a Lifestyle
The more things you are grateful for, the happier you will feel.
 As you begin to cultivate a life of gratitude, saying and showing your thanks will become more natural. “Studies have shown that when someone says ‘thank-you,’ it creates a chain reaction of kindness that in turn promotes a cycle of gratitude,” Kelly says. “It is no wonder why so many philosophers and religions embrace gratitude as a valuable state of well-being. Think how we could change the world simply by being grateful!”

Ways to Show Gratitude
Words can ring hollow if our actions don’t back them up. Don’t just say “thank you”—show it. Here are some simple ways Kelly advises to cultivate a life of gratitude:
• Keep a regular journal of the things for which you are truly grateful.
• Send a letter of thanks to someone who has made a difference in your life.
• Volunteer your time, make a contribution to your favorite charity, recycle, 
or donate your old clothes to a homeless shelter.
• Strive to be more compassionate and thoughtful when you speak.
• Smile. Be an example of good manners, and let people imitate you. 
A sincere smile is contagious.
Elegant thank-you notes follow traditional protocol including these guidelines:
• Always handwrite your note neatly in blue or black ink.
• Get expressive with the language to convey the emotion felt 
when you received the gift.
• Personalize your note instead of writing something generic.
• Tell the person how you plan to use the present; make the 
giver feel special by complimenting his or her taste.
• Mail your notes to make the recipient feel official.
• Write your thank-you note as soon as possible (within two weeks for a gift and three months for a wedding gift). But don’t fret if your note goes out later. Just acknowledge your lateness along with your gratitude. Where gratitude is concerned, “better late than never” is certainly true.