A Simple Recipe for an Unforgettable Thank You Note

thank you recipe

Saying “Thank You” is the key to happiness.

These two simple little words hold the power to improve your life.  To help you see the world differently.  To experience deeper, more meaningful connections with those around you.

Sure, you find happiness in a gift or an act of kindness.

But you can elevate the level of joy you experience by reciprocating gratitude.

Gratitude is as much a mindful act as an emotional one.

Since 2001, UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has been studying how our brains and bodies respond to and find happiness.  Their research gives us insight into the benefits of expressing gratitude with a message of thanks.

The scientific benefits of expressing gratitude:

  • You’ll be sick less often
  • You’ll sleep better at night
  • You’ll be more alert, alive, and awake
  • You’ll feel less lonely and isolated
  • You’ll have stronger relationships
  • You’ll need less stuff

To reap the physical, psychological, and social rewards that come from saying “thank you” you’ve got to go beyond simple good manners.  It’s not just about following a formula of stating how much you like the gift.

You’ll need to focus on the benefits of the gift, not just its features.

I’ll explain.  Keep reading.

Benefits versus Features

Gratitude is not centered on the thing.

At least not entirely.

It’s more about understanding, appreciating, and expressing the benefits that the thing provides.

Let me provide some examples to help clarify the difference between features and benefits.

Feature: Thank you for the $25 gift card.
Benefit: I bought a new tie with the gift card you sent me.  Now I’ll look great and feel confident for my job interview next week.

Feature: Thank you for inviting us to your dinner party last night.
Benefit: Last night was the first chance we’ve had to get out in over 3 months.  We laughed until our faces hurt and enjoyed every bite of your sumptuous cooking.

Feature: Thank you for your get well soon card last week.
Benefit: Your encouraging words where just what I needed.  I was feeling pretty down but your prayers and thoughts really lifted my spirits and helped me start today with a more positive outlook.

You see the pattern?

Focusing on the features describes the gift.  It is red, perfect fit, just what I needed, golf clubs, money, food, a good time, etc.

Describing the benefits allows both you and the giver to understand and appreciate how your life is now different, hopefully better and happier because of the gift.

By focusing on benefits, you don’t even need an occasion to express gratitude.

Simply take something in your life – it could be a anything – and think about how your life would be different if it weren’t there.

The Recipe for Using Benefits to Express a Happier Gratitude

The perfect “thank you” note focuses on benefits.

The gift giver wants to know that their efforts provided something of value to you.

They want proof that:

  • you liked it
  • you used it
  • you think of them when using it
  • you are better because of it

Try this simple recipe for writing a “thank you” note that is sure to please.


Thank you card or note card


  1. Look at the gift.  Ask yourself, what is this used for?  Yep, first think about all the features.  This will guide you to understanding its benefits.
  2. Next, think about how you might use it.  Pick a feature you like and think of how it might work.
  3. Then, find an upcoming event or circumstance that you can use this feature.  If nothing comes to mind, be creative.  Make up something.
  4. Last, connect the feature and the event with how great you will feel when you use it.  How you’ll be happier, less stressed, more handsome because of the gift.

Now just write it down.

Let me leave you with a last example.  Show you how I used this recipe for a recent thank you note I wrote.

Here’s my thought process (reference steps above):

  1. The gift?  $50 cash for my birthday.  Money, used for buying things.  It’s cash, so I can use it anywhere I choose.
  2. I could blow it on junk.  A night out with my wife.  Save it for later (not very beneficial right now).  I need some new shirts.
  3. I’ve got some local artist markets coming up where I’ll be selling our handmade letterpress greeting cards.  Would be nice to look sharp.  I might even sell more!
  4. It’s going to be awesome when I’m greeting potential customers and I’m looking sharp, professional, and in style.  This will help me feel more confident as I interact with people at the art market.

Here’s the final thank you note:

The $50 cash for my birthday was just what I needed.  I upgraded my wardrobe with 2 new, really nice shirts.  I plan on wearing them to an upcoming Art Market to sell our line of letterpress cards.  When I tried on the shirts, I thought I looked great – stylish and professional.  I already feel more confident.  I’m excited about showing off the new shirts I was able to purchase because of your gift.  I’ll be thinking about you when I’m impressing everyone and making lots of sales during this upcoming Art Market.  Best Wishes – Brannon.
When you visualize your benefit, you’ll be more appreciative.

Awareness of and expressing gratitude drives contentment.  Well-being.  Happiness.

Sure beats just saying “Thanks for the 50 bucks”.

Now It’s Your Turn

Jot down this 4-step recipe for using benefits.

Look around today.  You’re sure to find yourself being thankful for something.  Or someone.

Take just a minute and write them a quick note and express how something they did, said, or gave you benefited your day.

Happy writing!


Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Jon Ashcroft.