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Gratitude Letters

Write One Lately? (Science Says…)


Wrapping up our foray into the science of gratitude, let’s chat about one more INCREDIBLY powerful way to boost our gratitude and, therefore, pretty much every aspect of our well-being: Gratitude Letters.

Let’s go back to Robert Emmons and Martin Seligman.

In Gratitude Works! Emmons tells us: “Evidence that gratitude visits can make a measurable difference comes from Martin Seligman’s positive psychology laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. Seligman and his colleagues gave participants one week to write a letter of gratitude and then deliver it in person.

He tells us that Seligman offered the following instructions:

“Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. Choose someone who is still alive. Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this—several weeks if required. Invite that person to your home or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance.

Bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. Read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.”

Then Emmons tells us: “What was the effect of composing and delivering the letter for those who participated in the experiment? When their moods were measured after one week of doing the assigned exercise, participants were happier and less depressed. This boost in happiness and decrease in depressive symptoms were maintained at follow-up assessments one week and one month later. It turns out that a gratitude visit is one of the exercises that, to Seligman’s surprise (he once confided to me, ‘Bob, I don’t do gratitude’), made people lastingly less depressed and happier than any other positive psychology intervention.

Thank you, Bob.

That’s Today’s +1.

Let’s do gratitude.

And, if you feel so inspired, let’s do a Gratitude Letter and deliver it via a Gratitude Visit and watch our happiness soar.

(Note1: Although delivering the letter via a visit delivered incredible benefits, so did simply writing a letter—even if you don’t deliver it.

Note2: Of course, writing and delivering a letter is no guarantee of a perfectly happy outcome. But the simple act of writing and sharing our appreciation is extraordinarily powerful.)

Love and let’s do this!!!