May 6th, 2014

Boost Your Happiness With a Gratitude Visit!

Thanks to the growing science of happiness, researchers are gradually discovering more and more about simple tools that really work to boost feelings of genuine happiness.   And one of the most powerful tools we can use is a little gem called The Gratitude Visit.  I`ve used this exercise twice and I`ll likely use it again because the payoffs have been surprisingly unique and well worth the effort!  

Here`s How The Gratitude Visit Exercise Works:

1. Take a breath and tune in.  Think of someone who has made a positive difference in your life and who you never thanked properly (or as well as you would have liked to).  
2. Write a thank you letter to that person - about 300 words.  Make it concrete and specific.  Write about what they did for you and how it impacted your life for the better.  Give examples.  Make it really come alive with your genuine gratefulness and appreciation.  
3. Call and tell that person that you`d like to set up a visit, yet keep the purpose of the visit vague so that it will be a surprise.  It`s more fun and can be more meaningful that way.  If meeting face to face just doesn't work, the next best thing is a virtual visit (Skype or Facetime, etc).
4. When you meet, take time to read your letter to your recipient.  Notice her/his reactions as you read, and notice your reactions too.  And when you`re finished reading, take time to share your reactions and feelings for each other.
*PS:  Some people frame or laminate the letter, and that can be a nice touch, although optional of course.

Do this exercise and, according to the evidence, you will be significantly happier (and even less depressed if you're experiencing any depression) 1 month from now.  And many people report feeling happier as much as 6 months after their gratitude visit!  Either way, the happiness boost is very noticeable.  

Here`s how it`s worked for me:

The first gratitude letter I wrote was for a teacher I had taken courses with in College.  What he taught me has made such an enormous difference in my life, in so many ways, and I wanted him to know it.  However, when I tried to find him (at the college I`d attended over 20 years earlier) I discovered that he had retired and I had no way to reach him.  So I emailed a copy of the letter to my contact at the college and asked her if she would please forward it to him.  She did.  And it wasn`t long before I heard directly from him with a sincere thank you.  And even though I wasn`t able to share the letter face to face, saying what had been on my mind for more than 2 decades, and knowing that he had read my words, felt hugely satisfying!   I felt a definite happiness boost that lasted for weeks.  

The second letter I wrote, and this time shared face to face, was for my mom.   In her case, I`d thanked her both casually and in heartfelt ways many times for many things over the years.   The thing is, though, that I wanted to condense the things I was most grateful for into one heartfelt letter.  I wanted both of us to know what she`d done that I valued most, and why.  And I wanted her to have it in writing so that she could read it any time she wanted.

Sharing that letter with mom was one of those moments in life I`ll always remember.  Right now I can close my eyes and see the look of genuine gratefulness on her face as she listened.  She really took it in - every word.  And I remember how good it felt for me to share a couple of things that I`d never even thought to thank her for before (and yet I`d discovered while writing were important enough for me to include in the letter).   Even reflecting about it now brings back feelings of love, connectedness, gratefulness and appreciation.  

I wrote that letter to Mom in 2007.  She passed in 2017.  And when I was going through her home and precious things, I not only discovered that she'd kept her Gratitude Letter, but I noticed her handwriting at the top of the letter.  She'd written a little note to say "re-read in Sept 2013" and she followed that with a little happy face.  When I read that I cried with tears of joy.  Because I remembered that it was about that time that her health had begun to challenge her more than ever, and I'm guessing reading that letter boosted her spirits when she really needed it.  Talk about a moment!  And ... I've since let go of the original copy of that letter.  Why?  Because in her honor, I placed the original copy in a place very near and dear to her heart. I sensed she would have loved that.  Of course, I kept a copy for me.  

That`s it.  If you`d like a genuine happiness boost that lasts longer than you might think, I suggest you try it.  Over the years, I`ve heard from many clients and students who have tried it and, like me, been really glad they did.

Here`s to you and living well!

PS:  If you want to learn more about the science of happiness, and other tools researchers have discovered that work to boost it, I recommend one of Dr. Martin Seligman`s newest books.  It`s called Flourish:  A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being.

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Lee Chamberland

Stress Relief & Happiness Expert
Vancouver, BC, Canada
(604) 738-7685
You are more than you think you are, and something in you knows it.
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