Writing a Thank You Note to Yourself: a Practice in Self-Gratitude

Writing a Thank You Note to Yourself: a Practice in Self-Gratitude

Many of us have taken the time at some point in our lives to write a thank you note.  We may remember writing a thank you after a job interview or maybe we have memories of our parents or teachers telling us what to include in a thank you to a family member or friend (“Let them know how you’ll use the gift!”) or we may even recall times when the words were difficult to find.  We may also remember receiving a thank you note and the joy it brought. 

These small expressions of gratitude can have significant effects, for both the readers and writers.  Writing a thank you note may bring us just as much comfort or happiness as the person to whom we are sending it.  But what if I said that we can turn this expression of thanks on its head by writing ourselves a thank you?  This practice of self-appreciation takes very little time, yet can have significant results.  Through just a few simple steps, we can show ourselves the kind of love we often reserve for others.

Thank you note writing spans all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and ancient Romans, who wrote letters to the deceased and to their loved ones.  Although technology has changed our communication methods today, the act of expressing gratitude still holds the value seen all the way back in ancient times.  

Those who consistently write thank you notes have been found, through research, to be in more positive spirits overall (Dishman, 2019).  Specifically, a study published by the Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who engaged in writing about gratitude regularly for only 10 weeks were found to be more optimistic about their lives, to exercise more, and to make fewer trips to physicians (Harvard Health Publishing, 2011).  So, clearly the effects of expressing gratitude can be profound.  It can lead to elevated optimism and overall happiness that can then have an impact on our physical well being.

Knowing the benefits of expressing gratitude, we may now ask “Well, where do I start?” Writing a thank you note can be a daunting task.  If you find yourself struggling to find the right words, it may be helpful to go back to the roots of the commonly-used phrase “thank you.”  Coming from the Old English word “think,” the Oxford English Dictionary states that “thank you” evolved from meaning “a favourable thought or feeling” to “a kindly thought or feeling entertained towards any one for favour or services received” (Dishman, 2019).  This definition highlights the most important aspect of expressing gratitude: authenticity.  The exact words and phrasing holds far less value than connecting with a true emotion and writing from the heart. 

It may be easy for us to tap into that feeling of gratitude for a family member, a friend, or a colleague who has positively impacted our lives.  We may, however, find it a bit more difficult to find that same appreciation for ourselves.  This is why this exercise of expressing self-gratitude is so important.  We don’t often practice saying thank you to the most important person: ourselves!  We must learn to speak to ourselves with the same compassion and love we would use to communicate with a loved one.  And one of the easiest ways to take the first step in practicing this skill is to write a thank you note to yourself!

Tips for Writing a Thank You Note to Yourself

  1. Set aside time

This can be 5 minutes or a half an hour.  Block out enough time from your schedule so you do not feel rushed and can really embrace the exercise.

  1. Find a spot where you are comfortable

This can be a place of solitude or a busy coffee shop.  It is a place where you feel at ease and will not be too distracted.

  1. Decide the format of your note 

You can embrace old-fashioned pen and paper writing, or type the note on your computer, or even record a voice memo.  Find the format allowing your genuine expression.

  1. Write specifically and authentically

Choose a tone (formal or informal) and voice (first, second, or third person) that is comfortable and does not feel forced.  When writing, you can think big or small, every day, or once-in-a-lifetime.


Dear self, thank you for trying something new.  It is hard to get out of your comfort zone, but here you are trying this new exercise to practice seeing the good inside of yourself.

Hello (Name), thank you for making it through the hard days and choosing to move forward.  You got this.

Dear body, thank you for allowing me to hug my loved ones, dance, sing, see my friends (even through a computer screen), and write this note.  I sometimes may be hard on you, but you are incredibly beautiful just as you are.

(Name), You are brave.  You are smart.  You are kind.  You are resilient.  

Hi self, thank you for being authentically YOU even when it is hard and you want to hide.  No one else can do it the way that you do.

After completing your thank you note to yourself, find a spot to keep or display it so you can connect with it as much as you would like.  You can place a hand-written note or printed out copy on your bedside table, inside of your favorite book, or on your mirror.  You can listen to your voice memo in your car on your way to work or before going to bed.  And once you feel ready, perhaps give it another go and thank yourself again!  

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to express appreciation for ourselves, and there are no shoulds or should-nots!  Just connect to your authentic voice and convey what you are feeling.  We can only become more comfortable expressing and accepting self-gratitude through practice. So, go ahead and try it!  

This blog was written by Berklea Going, an intern with California Women’s Therapy.






How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

4 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem When You Have Depression

Depression and low self-esteem are two sides of the same coin. While low self-esteem leaves people vulnerable to depression, depression can absolutely destroy self-esteem.

But, though low self-esteem may be deeply rooted, there are things you can do to improve it, even if you are suffering from depression.

1. Start Your Day with Positivity

It’s important you start each day positively. Doing so will help your mind to habitually recognize good, especially the good in yourself. So, surround yourself with positivity in the form of music, books, calendars, computer wallpaper, etc. You can even sign up to a service that will send you funny memes or cute animal videos each day. Feeling good at the beginning of the day will set a tone and help you be positive throughout.

2. Analyze and Correct Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is the catalyst for both low self-esteem and depression. The more one thinks negatively, the less able they are to see themselves and the world around them in an accurate light. Soon, the negative thoughts are on a loop like an old record that keeps skipping, causing the same lyric to play over and over again.

The first thing that is needed is the ability to analyze your own thoughts. When a self-critical thought occurs, ask yourself three questions:

  • Is there any evidence to support this thinking?
  • Would people that know me say that my thought is true?
  • Does having this thought make me feel good or bad about myself?

Once you realize there is no evidence to support your thought, that your friends and family would disagree with your thought, and that your thought makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to replace that thought. Not with a vague affirmation, but with factual and meaningful self-statements.

For example, perhaps you have taken on a project at work, and currently you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Your thoughts may currently sound like, “Why did I say I could handle this? I never finish things on time.” You will now replace that thought with a positive factual thought, something simple like, “I’m doing better at this job everyday and am continuing to make progress.”

A healthy self-esteem is not about being perfect or thinking you’re perfect when you’re not. No one is. A healthy self-esteem is about acknowledging your strengths and accepting your weaknesses and realizing you’re like everyone else – human and beautifully flawed.

3. Treat Yourself Well

Though you may feel you don’t deserve it, by treating yourself, you will send positive messages to your subconscious mind that you ARE worth it. Consider taking yourself out to a nice lunch, buy yourself that sweater you’ve been eyeing, or go get a relaxing massage. You don’t even have to spend money; show yourself you’re worth it by spending time reading a book, going for a walk in nature, or doing anything that inspires you.

4. Seek Positive Support

You want to surround yourself with people who celebrate your strengths, not your weaknesses. This can include seeking the positive support of a therapist who can work with you on analyzing and replacing negative thought patterns. When we don’t have an accurate self-perception, it can help to get a new perspective from an objective third party.

Increasing your self-esteem isn’t easy, but if you practice these tips, you will be able to chip away at the negative self-talk every day.

Need help with your self-esteem? If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help. 

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves? It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.

Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.

When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.

5 Ways to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem has become an epidemic in this country, and one that negatively impacts our quality of life. Feelings of unworthiness can begin at a young age and, if neglected, can potentially lead to depression and anxiety.

Because low self-esteem can be so damaging, finding ways to feel better about ourselves and our abilities is vital to our well-being. Here are 5 ways to increase your self-esteem:

  1. Quiet That Inner Critic

Negative self-talk is a common issue for people with low self-esteem. If you’re one of those people whose inner critic is constantly beating them up, it’s important you quiet that voice. Try to replace any negative comments with positive ones. Stop focusing on your weaknesses and instead focus on your strengths and abilities.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

We are all so unique. Sadly, instead of celebrating what makes us individuals, many of us spend time comparing ourselves to others. And, should we find we don’t quite measure up to others’ standards, we feel inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead concentrate on being the best version of you that you can be.

  1. Give Up the Quest to be Perfect

Being human means being imperfect. We all have flaws, we are all works in progress. And that’s okay. Striving to be something that simply doesn’t exist is futile and exhausting. And before you say that so many celebrities are perfectly beautiful and lead perfect lives, guess again. Hollywood’s A-listers are typically photoshopped and many have been treated for depression and addiction. They are human and struggling like anyone else.

Stop trying to be perfect and instead set attainable goals for yourself.

  1. Start Loving Your Body

Many people struggle with body image issues. Much of it is because of the photoshopping I just mentioned. It’s hard to love your body when you are expected to look like the people that grace the covers of magazines.

Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, on how much you weigh or how big your muscles are, focus on being healthy. Be grateful for your health and make healthy choices so you can always feel good and vibrant.

  1. Cut Back on Social Media

Social media has its good points, but it can also set unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and lifestyles. It’s important to remember that online, people tend to only post images that make their lives seem awesome. But that’s not always an accurate presentation. Spending too much time looking at other people leading fun lives can lead us to spending less time enjoying our own.

If self-esteem issues have become a serious problem in your life, leading to anxiety and depression, consider working with a therapist who can help you work through your memories and emotions.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.