This is a Positive Psychology Intervention credited to Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson.
Their premise is that American society seems to lack gratitude rituals. The instructions are simple: think of someone who has made a personal impact on your life, who have been extremely kind for which you have never really expressed formal gratitude.
The point to write a letter to express in specific detail as to why you are grateful to this person. You can either deliver the letter in person or email. The results dictate that not only is the recipient grateful, but the composer is, in turn, grateful as well. So, I set about to do just that. I wrote to a person that showed me true friendship, and acceptance despite meeting briefly. The result, a lifelong friendship that I believe will last the test of time.I always tell my friend I am grateful for our friendship, but I don’t think he readily accepts that information. He does not intentionally disregard my words, but it is also an aspect of cultural difference. My friend was raised by Chinese 1st-year immigrant parents, who were extremely hard on him, and critical of his achievements. Thus, George is incredibly self-critical. Despite, the fact that he graduated from an academically established difficult institution as a STEM major. A reality that I cannot personally fathom, in fact, I would equate being a STEM major, to the equivalent of a living hell. However, he is intelligent, talented, and gifted. Unfortunately, he has a difficult time perceiving those positive aspects of himself.
I always tell my friend I am grateful for our friendship, but I don’t think he readily accepts that information.
Thus, I think my articulation of the amount of my gratitude and admiration to him as a friend will be more readily received. I planned to deliver it to him and let him keep it so he can be continuously be reminded of the outstanding person that he is. Intentionally taking the time to actively sit, and articulate all the ways, my friend significantly helped me as a friend, and all the reasons I am grateful to have him as a friend, made me feel increasingly appreciative of our relationship. Writing the letter of gratitude, created a warm feeling. The sensation seemed to flow through my body, through my hands, and into the very words I was writing. The experience makes me curious as to why I had not done this before. Why is expressed gratitude not a regular practice in our society? An immeasurable amount of people deserves a letter of gratitude, regardless of whether they asked for one or not. Expressing gratitude should be a regular proactive portion in the lives of all people if it is not already. The Gratitude Letter exercise simply helps cultivates those experiences, and further, broaden these conceptualizations about one’s interpersonal relationships. The results this exercise could have on our society if applied regularly are immeasurable.
People may not express gratitude regularly because acts of kindness between people are generally expected. Just as those in life are generally happy. Many people are unaware that such pleasant experiences of interpersonal relationships, deserve acknowledgment because they are perceived as natural aspects of interpersonal relationships, so they go unnoticed.
I strongly suggest you try this exercise. It could be a friend, teacher, lover, etc.
I would include the letter in its entirety. However, I am unsure anyone of you would wish to read the full length of the letter. So, I will include my friend’s reaction.
“Wow I don’t know what to say, Gaby, thank you!!!”
“I am really glad for this, really. Also, thanks for the letter. On my first opportunity, I am going to frame this.”
His words brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was reveling in his words of thanks, but because it had brought him joy.
So once again I encourage you to try this exercise of gratitude. If the results are less than satisfactory, please let me know. If the results exceed your expectations, please let me know as well!
Wabi-Sabi wit Gaby