Expressing gratitude is a great way to reduce stress and increase overall happiness. Plus, when others receive appreciation through cards, letters, or email, they’re also going to start feeling those same benefits.
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And it’s not just for a little while. Those feelings stay in your brain for months on end, causing good things to happen. If nothing else, that’s the perfect reason to write thank you letters to friends and family to increase positivity all the way around.
Let’s face it, some days we need a bigger boost than others. So, let us take the guesswork of the how-to and get you into sharing some joy with others.
Keep reading for six super easy steps to get you from the greeting to a spell check so you can craft a seamless thank you letter to anyone in your circle of family and friends.
Steps for Writing a Thank You Letter to Family
Each of the steps works whether you’re sending your letter of gratitude via email or a handwritten thank you note. Just remember to send it out as soon as possible, so that you don’t forget to send one at all. Read on for ways to show gratitude in just a few simple steps.
At the beginning of your thank you letter, address the recipient appropriately. If you’re on familiar terms, then use something informal and friendly. Otherwise, if it’s a great aunt, say, then use a more formal salutation. Here are some examples.
- Hello, [Name].
- Hey, [Name].
- Hi, [Name].
- Use a nickname
- Good Morning, [Auntie].
- Dear [Uncle Bob]:
- The [Ed Johnson] Family,
2. Starting out
Instead of dialing right into the thank you, why not start with a reason that someone often comes to mind. Starting a letter this way lets people know that you’re trying to connect with them on a personal or deeper level than just acquaintances. Just be as authentic as you can.
- "I hope this card (letter or email) finds you well.”
- “I saw this and thought of you.”
- “Yesterday, I was reminded of you when…”
- “Do you remember that time when…?”
Most people appreciate the little sentiments, especially from close friends and family members.
3. Say, thank you
The next step is to express your gratitude. Choose simplicity and try to get to the point quickly. Don’t forget to mention exactly why you’re showing an appreciation by mentioning specifics. Take a look at a few examples here:
- “Thank you for the basket filled with delicious bread and honey.”
- “You remembered! Thank you so much for my penny press from Wall Drug.”
- “Thank you so much for your donation to Camp Michigamme in our mother’s name.”
- “We had such a lovely time last weekend. Thanks for inviting us to join you up at the cabin.”
- “We’re so grateful for the lovely potted plant and letter of encouragement you sent last week”.
Pro-tip: if you send the note via email, put ‘Thank You’ in the subject line.
4. Explain the impact
Don’t abruptly end the letter now. People appreciate hearing more. Tell them how they’ve helped, offer some specifics, and remember to be personal.
Because this is a letter to family members, you’ll want to communicate as much as you can. Here’s how to start:
- “The sympathy basket you sent was so thoughtful. It got us through the tough days of not wanting to cook. The bread was especially delicious with your homemade honey. Thank you for making things easier during this difficult time.”
- “I have been collecting those pennies since we were kids. Thanks, big brother.”
- “The time at the cabin was more than just relaxing. We appreciate getting to know my siblings again after all of these years. Thank you for being such wonderful traveling companions.”
- “It’s heartwarming to know that we have an amazing family that is always looking to add some comfort in our lives. We appreciate all you do for us.”
Pro-tip: explain the impact, but save some details for a coffee or dinner together.
5. Signing off
Although closing a letter is simple, consider how formal you would like it to sound based on the previous few steps. Here, you might add some thank you quotes if they are appropriate, or use one of these simple options:
- I owe you one,
- Many thanks,
- With gratitude,
- Warm wishes,
- Bless you,
- Kind regards,
Then, sign or type your name in a manner suitable for your audience.
6. Proofread your letter
If you’ve typed an email, this will be an easy task. Otherwise, just give your letter a quick read-through to correct any little errors you see.
If you’ve forgotten to mention anything, put a ‘p.s.’ at the end with whatever you need to say.
Example Thank You Letter to Families
From siblings to extended family and even neighbors, writing any letter of heartfelt gratitude comes with some boxes to check off. Now that you’ve got those six simple steps in mind, here are a few examples of what that looks like from start to finish.
Example letter for a specific family member
I saw this card, and it reminded me of when we went to the cabin with Mom and Dad. Do you remember that neighbor lady who made those excellent pickles? Mrs. Crowley, I think? I thought she was about 60 or 70 years old back then, but I was chatting with Dad the other day, and apparently, she’s still working in her garden every year.
Also, I received the loveliest little trinket in the mail yesterday. It’s beautiful! I plan on wearing it until it falls off. Thank you so much for remembering my birthday. I appreciate that you go out of your way to find such unique and beautiful gifts. So, thank you, thank you.
I know you’ve been busy lately, but I would love to get together. Plus, I need to show you how well my new bling works with my wardrobe. How do you know me so well?
Thank you for always being so thoughtful.
Example letter to family for support
Good Morning, Auntie—
I saw your favorite flower yesterday and thought of you. There was a bee enjoying its pollen, but I wasn’t quick enough to snap a photo; otherwise, I would have sent it to you.
I also wanted to say thank you. I feel like I don’t say it enough, but I am always so grateful for your support these last few years. You and Uncle went out of your way to make sure I could get into college and have enough money to buy food and pay my bills.
Last week, I was filling out a scholarship application and had to answer some questions about what makes me the best candidate and why. It gets easier to talk about what I’ve been through, but it never really gets easier, you know? Anyway, I’ve attached it to this email so you and uncle can read over it.
I mentioned how I wouldn’t be here without your support. I was never taught gratitude when I was living with my parents, but you changed that. From the time I stepped into your life, I’ve known nothing but appreciation and thankfulness for what you’ve helped me achieve.
I look forward to the day when I can start to pay you back.
Example letter for family and friends after a funeral
The Puralewski Family,
I hope this card finds you well.
First, I wanted to let you know how grateful we all are for the help and support you’ve been showing to our mom since Dad died. She’s needed friends and neighbors like you to be supportive and present as she maneuvers through this grief. She’s relayed all of the times you’ve checked in on her, too. That makes her feel safer in the neighborhood.
I understand you recently had some friends offer to help her with the upkeep of their home. Thank you for suggesting them. She’ll need some help with the lawn work and maintenance here forward. Let me know if there’s anything you need from me on that front.
Mom also mentioned that you sent over some thoughtful gifts after the funeral. Thank you for that. I believe she treated herself to a dinner one evening instead of trying to cook for herself. It’s a strange feeling to be cooking for one suddenly, so I know she appreciated the gift.
I am enclosing my phone number and email with this letter just if you need to get a hold of me or any of my siblings.
Again, thank you so much for all you’ve done. You’ve warmed our hearts during this difficult time.
Joe Snyder and Family
Expressing Gratitude Leads to a Better You
Researchers have discovered that communicating gratitude has physical, psychological, and social benefits leading to a more robust immune system, better moods, and even stronger interpersonal relationships.
Whenever you express it, you’re releasing serotonin and dopamine, which leads to increased self-worth and, ultimately, greater happiness. So, take time every day to be grateful—especially for all of the small things.
- Holland, T. (2017). The Power of Gratitude: What Happens to Your Brain When You're Thankful. Dignity Health. www.dignityhealth.org/articles/the-power-of-gratitude-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-youre-thankful
- Sliwa, J. (2015). A Grateful Heart is a Healthier Heart. American Psychological Association. www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/04/grateful-heart