Looking at the news these days, it can be easy to get lost in the overwhelming sense of worry and sadness that is being expressed all over the world. One way to counter these gloomy feelings is to increase our gratitude for the people in our lives that have been there for us, encouraged us, helped us accomplish personal goals and helped us grow as better human beings.
If you look around at the people in your life (family, spouse, friends, etc), when was the last time you took the time to express your gratitude to them and said “thank you”? In these stressful times, those two magic words have the power to make someone feel appreciated as well as solidify your relationship with them. All too often however, we seem to take these people for granted or just can’t find the time to properly thank them.
The exercise I am suggesting, is not just a simple “thank you”, but rather a gratitude letter. To successfully write a gratitude letter, you must first identify someone in your life that you have never deeply thanked for what they did for you. Then, you write down your feelings towards them, why you are grateful, and thank them for it. This letter should be about one page long (approximately 300 words).
Once you have finished writing the letter, plan a visit with that person and read them what you have written for them. Leave them the letter as a gift and you will both reap the benefits of increased happiness and gratitude.
In fact, research by Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson have shown that increased levels of happiness lasted several months after the gratitude letter exercise was carried out.
For the one writing and reading the gratitude letter, the process can feel very humbling and somewhat difficult. Once you have gone through with it, you may feel as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders and can be overcome with joy as you see the look of gratitude coming from the person you have just thanked.
It can be quite an emotional process for both people involved but the end result is increased gratitude and happiness for all.
With the holiday season fast approaching, the timing couldn’t be better to write a gratitude letter for someone you are grateful for. It would seem to be the easiest way to spread some well deserved holiday cheer.
Ron Forte is a Positive Psychology Life Coach who lives and works in Montreal. He teaches people about emotions management and zen living. One subset of his many clients is an interesting group: people on parole, learning proven methods to change their outcomes.
He is currently writing a book about how positive psychology can make a life-changing difference in the lives of formerly violent offenders. Follow him on Facebook to know more about his work.