When a thank you note doesn’t feel like enough, writing a letter of gratitude can be cathartic. Not only are you offering a morale boost to the recipient, but you’re also taking a moment to give yourself a little positivity, too.
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After all, it feels good to make someone's day brighter. Plus, when you take a moment to sit down and think about all the good and fantastic things you've experienced, and all the incredible people that have been there in your life, you're actively giving your brain a dopamine dose.
Have a look at these ideas on writing a letter of gratitude for someone who has been impactful in your life. After this, you may find yourself writing to more than your partner or grandparents and reaching out to public officials or medical professionals who’ve made your life better along the way. Who knows, once you start finding people to be grateful for, you might just have a rosier outlook on life altogether.
How to Write a Gratitude Letter
There are six sections to a formal gratitude letter: personal address, introduction, explanation of help, description of results, closing, and signature. Apply each of these sections to give the letter its form and tone.
Informal letters are composed much the same and require all but the second section (the introduction) as the letter recipients already know who you are. Follow along for definitions and answers to each of these segments.
1. Personal address
Be conscious of the person or people to whom you are addressing your letter. Indeed, you'll take on a much more personal tone with partners and other family members.
However, in the case of professional relationships, such as your college professor, a physician, or even a Senator or Congressperson, you'll want to use salutations appropriate to their professional title. For instance:
- My Darling Husband/Wife/Partner,
- My Dearest (Aunt or Uncle),
- Dear Sir or Madam:
- To Whom It May Concern,
- Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Professor (Last Name):
- Honorable Mr./Ms./Mrs. (Last Name),
In the case of a Senator or Congressperson, it’s acceptable to use Mr./Ms./Mrs. in your letter, if you’ve addressed the envelope using their title as "The Honorable (Full Name)." If that’s the case, then you’ll have already met the requirement.
2. Introduce yourself
This next step is for more formal letters. Here, you’ll want to give a brief introduction to create a connection. For instance:
- My name is (Full Name), and I’m one of your constituents from (city or county).
- I was your ER patient on the night of (date) who was suffering from (condition).
- I was the recipient of the college scholarship for “Future Outstanding Science Scholars.”
- Our team received a grant from your foundation for (name of nonprofit organization).
- I have been a member of the (organization) that you have represented for several years.
3. Explain how you were helped professionally or personally
Often, people are very willing to let the world know when things go wrong. But here you have an opportunity to be the change, letting others know when things go well. When writing, try to keep this section within ~150 words and consider the following ideas:
- What happened?
- How were you positively impacted?
- How does this represent you or your community as a whole?
- In what ways did this provide relief or assistance?
- Were there any other struggles or adversities?
Just like professional settings, people are very willing to let the world know when things go wrong. So, here’s a chance to share love and positivity with other and more intimate connections. While professional letters should be more concise, you’ve got much more writing room in a personal letter. As such, when writing your letter, consider the following ideas:
- What is the timeframe? (A week? Month? Years?)
- Were they supportive financially or emotionally?
- How would you describe that support? Compliment them. (Were they a rock? A godsend?)
- What is the result of this compassion that they showed to you?
- How do you see this helping your future as a result of their efforts?
4. Describe the results of their help
While most people choose an occupation out of drive or passion, it goes without saying that everyone needs a morale boost. That said, positive letters help everyone want to continue to do good work. So, consider the following ideas when writing your letter so that they are fully aware of their professional impact on your life. Keep this section to ~150 words as well.
- What does this do for the overall morale of you and either your family or community?
- How did this impact your life over a given time?
- To what extent do you think you’ll be able to use their help to become a better person or do great things?
- In what ways have you been able to return the kindness to others?
- How do you promote this gratitude in your daily life?
Family is always going to stick its neck out for loved ones, no matter how difficult the situation. So, their loving assistance deserves a personal, from the heart response. With that, you may want to consider the following additions to your letter, which take it from professional to close and personal.
- What were you explicitly dealing with when the loved one stepped in to help?
- How did this alleviate your struggle?
- How did they help you to grow and continue on your path?
- How do you intend on repaying their kindness to them or others?
- How do you now see the value of family and personal relationships?
5. Sign the letter with gratitude
This section takes a lot less thought. Just use what feels right.
Take a look at the examples we’ve found for you here:
- With Gratitude,
- Forever Grateful,
- With Immense Love,
- Kind Regards,
- Thank you so much,
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6. Sign your name
If you are writing a professional letter, then you’ll want to maintain dignity here. Use the proper address for yourself as you would for them.
Skip the nicknames that your friends give you, and use your full legal name, leaving them a positive impression of you and your character.
Gratitude Letter Examples
Here are six examples ranging from personal to professional that you can use as templates for your letters of gratitude.
To mom or dad
Dear Mom (and/or) Dad,
(Partner’s name – if there is one) and I wanted to say thank you for all of the support you’ve offered these last few years. Just knowing that you’re available to watch the kids or help out at home has been a godsend, especially with how erratic school and work schedules have been. We notice that you always try to make something healthy for them to eat after school and help pick up or clean while you’re at the house. We also see how tiring the kids can be, especially the youngest. He’s a handful.
Apart from saying thank you, we wanted to support you in some way with a present of gratitude. It’s not much, but with your help, we’ve been able to get a lot more sleep and, as a result, a lot more accomplished at work, which has helped out tremendously with our finances. So as a result, we’re sending you on a weekend trip to (city).
When I was growing up, I watched both of you struggle to provide me with all the love and things kids need. You sold that property, worked extra shifts at work, and didn’t take a vacation for a few years — all just to pay for my college. While this is just a tiny token, in contrast, it’s nonetheless overdue. When we come home from work, we can focus on each other and our kids more, which means that our family time has improved. We’re no longer too tired to read to the kids at night, and making a hot breakfast in the morning has improved (child’s name) concentration at school.
We know all of this is because you two are sacrificing part of your relaxing retirement to look out for us. And we just want to say thank you. From the deepest part of our hearts, we’re so grateful for all that you’ve done, all that you do, and all that you are.
(Name and Name)
To a friend
(First Name of Friend),
I’m not sure who struggled more this past year, but I can’t even begin to say how much your friendship has meant to me. Not only have you held my hand during the darkest year in history, but you have been my absolute rock when it comes to relationship advice. I never thought that I’d be in this position, especially under such extreme circumstances, but there’s no crystal ball, is there? Each time I thought I would lose it, somehow you just knew—and sent a silly text with a message that always made me smile. No matter how awful everything seemed right up until that moment, you gave me space and freedom to smile and catch my breath. Your messages, our wine nights, and every ounce of laughter provided me with a path to find myself amidst all this chaos.
Without you, I’d never have found the strength to commit to changing my life and situation. I knew that no matter what choice I made, you were going to be there. You’re always there. Without you, I would have never taken that leap to fix my life for me and not for anyone else. Why? Because through your guidance and wisdom, I have learned that I do matter, I do have my needs, I do have my dreams, and no one should ever put that part of me last because it suits them more. I know where I need to go now and the kind of person I want and need beside me when I get there.
While this hasn’t been easy, you’ve made this struggle manageable. You’ve been more of a friend to me than anyone ever has, and I am eternally grateful for all of your kind and wonderful ways. I am happy to call you a friend, but in truth, I feel as close to you as family. We are sisters, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll continue to be until we’re in rocking chairs, angry at the nurses trying to give us our pain meds.
Sis, I love and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
Thank you, thank you, thank you,
To a teacher
Professor (Last Name),
My name is (name), and I was in your Public Policy 243 class in the fall of last year when my family went through some unbelievable tragedies.
First of all, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this quarter's class's structure and subject matter. A classmate not only recommended the course as an elective but mentioned that you were a dynamite instructor. They were right. I’ve completely changed my focus and hope to pursue work in the maritime arena.
To my point, I’m not sure if you remember, but while I was struggling with family grief, I fell behind—way behind. I had considered dropping the class to manage what was going on emotionally. But, in thinking about it, I am grateful that you talked me out of doing that. Not only was I able to put my energy into something substantial, but the small bits of support you offered while I got slowly caught up were nothing short of lifesaving.
Since that course, I’ve been able to find an internship within that same focus. I’m working with some fantastic professionals who feel as passionate about our oceans and maritime policy as I do. Thank you because were it not for your belief in me and support, I am not sure I would have picked up the class a second time. Now, I plan to pursue a Master’s in Maritime Policy. So, I could use your help one more time.
The program I need requires a letter of recommendation from three of my professors. I had hoped you’d be able to write one for me if you’re able to do so. In addition, please let me know of any additional information I can provide to help you recall any of my submitted coursework.
Again, thank you for all of your kindness when I needed it most. I didn’t know how to come out of all that pain, but I successfully found that path with support and generosity from you.
When you read this letter in ten years, I want you to look back at this moment and smile because I am about to take you on the wildest, most challenging ride yet. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty. But with everything that’s happened—the only way through is out. And no matter how difficult it’s going to get, this moment right now is the one that matters most because it’s the one where we get to highlight all that you are and praise your most authentic self. No matter how broken you may feel along the way, know that you’ve got more courage and strength in your right pinky than most see in a lifetime.
Thank you for making all the mistakes you’ve made, especially that one when you were 25. Thank you for the tenacity to stick out on those miles, especially when running your first big ultra. Thank you for going back to school to get that degree. Thank you for always diving headfirst into anything that sounded remotely fun or interesting. Thank you for keeping (name) as a friend—and hopefully, you’ll be thanking yourself more in the future. Thank you for calling your parents every day, because you’re going to miss them when they’re gone. Thank you for being fearless, self-evaluative, kind to yourself, kind to others, and ready to make changes whenever or wherever the roads were blocked. I’ve never met anyone as malleable to life as you, and I know that’s your most attractive characteristic. But, hey, most of all, thank you for always telling yourself that failure is not an option. You’re the toughest kid I’ve ever met.
We’ve witnessed so many people try to break us, judge us, and turn us into something we’re not, but you’ve always stayed the course, even when that course was far more painful than becoming one of the lemmings. But, as I said, it’s only just begun. And everything we’ve done so far is preparing us for the next stage in this big adventure, but I have faith in who you are and what we’ve done. You got this. I believe in you.
Your biggest fan,
For an elected official
Honorable Mr./Ms./Mrs. (Last Name),
My name is (Full Name), and I am from (City or County). I am a single mother of one exceptional child, who I have seen blossom because of your efforts in our neighborhood.
I am writing today to let you know that my family has been positively impacted by the new lunch program serving underrepresented and low-income families. With this provision, I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that my child will continue to be fed nutritious meals.
As you know, there’s been adversity in our local system for years, where parents have been struggling to make ends meet. But, by helping my child and my neighbor's children, you’re affording our children opportunities to learn and grow, one healthy meal at a time.
In my family, I’ve watched the brightness come back to my child's eyes. Of course, their health and wellness have always been of great importance, but now I can use that money to buy them a small toy from time to time, whereas before, the money we earned was meant to keep their belly full.
I see that my child is more successful in school, they can concentrate more, and with food at every meal, my child no longer feels embarrassed or insecure during school lunchtime. Unfortunately, food insecurities plague many people here in (city or county). But now we can concentrate on the future without worrying today.
Mr./Ms./Mrs. (First Name and Last Name)
For an aunt or uncle
Here’s a short example that you might write to your aunt or uncle if they’ve been pivotal in your education.
Dear Aunt (Name) and Uncle (Name),
I wanted to take a moment to let you know how much I appreciate all of your kindness and love these last few years. When I first arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's house, I was a mess.
Not only was I distrustful of everyone and everything, but I was also incredibly hurt and angry at my parents. But with your consistent love and support, I’ve been able to see past the hurt and anger. Now, I realize that I’ve got so much to look forward to in life. And while some of the chaos will remain with me for a long time, I rest knowing that I have your wisdom on which to rely whenever I get stuck.
Thinking back to what was even possible five years ago, I can now say that so much lies ahead for me. Before, I couldn't see anything more than a week away, but now I can see my life unfolding in the most extraordinary ways. Safety, security, and love were all things I lacked from a very early age, and now I can confidently say that I am accepted and loved for who I am.
Now, I’ll be taking this forward into a nursing career so that I can help people. I’ll also be using all of the lessons you taught me to positively impact my friends and, eventually, my patients. And this is how I’ll continue to show others the gratitude that I’ve received from you.
With Immense Love,
Your (Niece or Nephew), (Name)
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Here’s a final hint about letters of gratitude. Keep and write in a gratitude journal every day, even for the small things.
Soon, you’ll start to notice all of the positivity that you have in your life and everywhere else around you. Then, you’ll be writing more of these letters in the days ahead.