As a child, Chris Peterson absolutely hated writing thank-you notes. His aversion continued right into his 40s, until one day he knew he had to face it.
A psychology professor at the University of Michigan, Peterson regularly gave his students an unusual homework assignment. He asked them to write a “gratitude letter,” a kind of belated thank-you note to someone in their lives. Studies show such letters provide long-lasting mood boosts to the writers. Indeed, after the exercise, Peterson says his students feel happier “100 percent of the time.”
But, what Peterson didn’t tell his students was that he couldn’t bring himself to write his own letters. “I just thought it would be corny to do,” he remembers.
When he finally forced himself to put pen to paper, Peterson avoided embarrassing sentiments by “cloaking it all in humor.” His thanks wound up feeling insincere and didn’t cheer him. When he tried again, he says, “I spoke from the heart.”