When I was growing up, my family wasn't into writing thank you notes very much. I didn't pick up the habit as a child or adolescent, and I look back on the missed opportunities with regret. I agree with Miss Manners on the idea that a handwritten thank you note is one of the best ways of displaying appreciation.
Last year, I was married in early May, and we received gifts as well as assistance with putting the wedding together and making it happen. Even though handwriting gives me a lot of pain after a little while, I have to say that I enjoyed writing those notes, and I did my best to make them personalized instead of formulaic. We did have one silly mix-up when we sent BOTH notes that began "Dear Mom & Dad" to my own parents, leaving Brian's parents without one! The situation was eventually figured out and rectified, and my mom and dad were extremely amused (so were his, after we explained that we weren't uncouth ingrates).
Even though writing thank you notes can seem to be a chore, I have found that they are a great way to express feelings that might otherwise be embarrassing to state alone. It can be uncomfortable telling someone how much they mean to you, but when you are expressing gratitude to them for something, it is a lot easier because you have a context in which to do so.
I have also found that beautiful stationery can turn a "chore" into a delight. There's just something fun about writing a heartfelt note on pretty paper or beautiful little cards. I keep a variety of different types of stationery and cards on hand for letter writing and thank you notes. I don't spend a lot of money on stationery, however, because I can find cute stuff at the dollar store for very little cost, and I sometimes scour clearance racks at other stores to find delightful gems, such as this undersea-style card set I found at Barnes & Noble during their post-Christmas sale:
I used the undersea cards for my Xmas thank you notes, and they were an absolute pleasure to use. I can only hope that the recipients enjoyed them as much as I did.
I don't just write thank you notes in response to gifts, by the way. A week or so ago, I heard a public radio broadcast where a neurologist was strongly refuting the "fibromyalgia isn't real" doofuses. I noted the gentleman's name, realized that he was not just a neurologist, but also a professor of neurology at the local medical college (Albany Med). I looked up his address and wrote him a note expressing my gratitude for standing up for fibro sufferers, and for the work he has done for chronic pain sufferers in general, as I found in my research that he has actually been a huge boon to us with multiple papers published and by treating patients.
So whom would you like to thank today? Who needs a handwritten note to lift their spirits a bit? Have you written to a favorite teacher that inspired you? Can you think of a family member without whom you'd be much worse off? Are you grateful to a shop employee who treated you kindly? Get out your pen and let them know that they're appreciated!