This is an example of a “Gratitude Letter”, one of many happiness practices that I have been learning about in the “The Science of Happiness” course, UC Berkeley. (I included a typed version at the end of this post.)
We were asked to write a gratitude letter after viewing a video of people who were asked to do the same. We were also asked to read the letter to the person we were writing to. Both the act of writing and reading the letter have been shown to improve health and happiness in the writer of the letter and the recipient. The people in the video were only told to write the letter at first. After they wrote the letter they were given a phone to call the person they wrote the letter to. Most everyone reacted very surprised and a little embarrassed. Sometimes we are less reserved when we write to someone as opposed to speaking to them directly. It was a fun video to watch, also very touching.
Gratitude is something my parents felt very strongly about. Both their families had faced many struggles including the Great Depression. My mother and father instilled in each of us how lucky we all were and that we should always be thankful. Thankful we were together, thankful we had a warm home, thankful for our loving extended family, thankful for our clothes, and thankful for three meals a day. As an adult, I see what a gift this was. Although we faced some very difficult times, we were happier than we would have been if we didn’t appreciate what we had. I think this is why I found this happiness practice to be enjoyable, natural feeling, and of great value.
I appreciated learning about this happiness practice and thought you might like to give it a try. The letter to all of you is not exactly what the instructors had in mind. 😉 I did write another to a long time friend.
The following were the guidelines given to us:
Choose a person who you feel grateful to. Someone who made an impact in your life, but you may never have expressed your gratitude.
Write them a letter explaining why you feel that way (putting pen to paper feels better, somehow, than typing it). Include how they helped you and how it still means so much to you today.
Try to meet in person to read the letter to them. Notice their expression and their emotions as well as your own.
If you cannot do this in person, you can try skyping, facetime, or like the old days, a phone call. You can still hear their responses.
I also learned another way to strengthen gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Researchers have found that keeping a gratitude journal increases happiness. After conducting additional research in this area researchers discovered that the people who wrote in their journals once a week as opposed to three times a week were happier. Sometimes more isn’t better. The best happiness practices are the kind we enjoy, we can do without stress, and you believe it can make a difference to your happiness.
Simply telling people in your life why you appreciate them is a wonderful way to increase your happiness as well as theirs. I know many of us are not only thankful on Thanksgiving, but all year long.
Let me know if you try the Gratitude Letter, I would be very grateful! 🙂
To learn more about how gratitude improves health and happiness or to learn more about “The Science of Happiness” course visit:
Look for “Core Themes” and go to “Gratitude”
“The Science of Happiness” will be re-launching on January 5th 2016 “A free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life, Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Kether and Emiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE Credit hours available.” Greater Good Science Center
Typed version of my letter to you:
Dear My Happy Readers,
Thank you! I am so grateful you take time from your busy lives to read my blog posts. I am so fortunate to have learned through writing comes healing, gratitude, learning, growing, connecting, and so much more. It is an amazing feeling when you read, comment, share or like something I wrote! Thank you again for reading and being positive. May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you are in the states) or a wonderful week if you are not.