The perfect Valentine’s Day gift

Would you like to make someone you care about happy this Valentine’s Day?

Would you like to become happier in the process?

If so, write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life.

Your letter can leave you and the recipient feeling happier for months. 

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Gratitude Letters

A few years ago I wrote and shared my first gratitude letter; I wrote my first to my Dad. I was a bit shy about doing it, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience for both of us, and since my Dad passed away a few years after I wrote his letter, the experience holds a special place in my heart.

I’ve been writing thank you notes for decades. I sent cards not just for gifts, but for experiences, past and present. I’ve written dozens of notes and cards to my aunts and to friends of my parents for their special acts of kindness to me as a child. One of my younger brother’s godmothers always had extra treats for us when she brought him a gift. Another of my aunts hosted weekly gatherings at her and my uncle’s farm each Sunday in the summer allowing my eight siblings and me to swim, dive, jump, ride, row, fish, and enjoy all sorts of other summer fun because they were willing to put-up with an ongoing stream of guests – our family and many others. Those Sundays were magic to me as a kid, and I wanted them to know.

Those letters and the memories they evoked are wonderful, but a gratitude letter is an even richer, more touching way to say thank you. Here’s why:

  • It’s longer – approximately 300 words.
  • It’s read in-person to its intended recipient, making it more of a gratitude visit with the letter as a hostess gift of sorts. The true magic of the visit comes from sharing your letter out loud and face-to-face with its recipient. (If you can’t meet in person, Skype or a phone call will work, but if at all possible go the in-person route.)
  • Dr. Martin P. Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology and one of the first and strongest proponents of gratitude visits notes the ritual is powerful, ”Everyone cries when you do a gratitude visit,” he says. ”It’s very moving for both people.”

Tips for making it work:

  • Write to someone, who holds a special place in your heart or who did something nice or kind for you, but you’ve never thanked, or thanked as much as you would have liked to.
  • Be detailed. Write the particulars of what you are thankful for. Let them know how their actions affected you. Include the whats, the whens, the hows, and the whys.
  • Let your recipient know you are up to something good! A funny thing happened when I read my letter to my Dad. When I finished, he made a joke about how I must have the wrong “Dad”, and then he told me he thought I was going to share something about what he’d done wrong – not right. (I was nervous about sharing my letter, and he interpreted that as seriousness or sadness. When I began reading from a sheet of paper he was sure there was bad news ahead.) We laughed about that, but to prevent any confusion, letting your host or hostess know the visit is well-intentioned is probably a good idea.
  • Leave a copy of your letter with your recipient. Don’t worry about making it too fancy, but using special paper can’t hurt. Laminating or a frame might be appreciated, or to others, seem a bit too much – go with your guts. Just don’t make the visit too much about what happens next with the letter; leave that up to your receiver.

The Ripple Effect

Another interesting facet of this simple and effective gesture is that it tends to grow and reproduce on its own. Recipients often end-up writing and sharing letters with folks they want to thank, and writers tend to write more letters to share with others.

Positive psychology studies show the good feelings can last for weeks, even months. I know firsthand that years later I’m still happy I shared a gratitude letter with my father. It is a sweet and happy memory, and one I can relive any time I want. Gratitude letters pack a huge dose of positive power!

Increased happiness for someone you care about is just a few pen strokes. Don’t let this free,  foolproof opportunity for joy pass you by – send a gratitude letter to someone special this Valentines Day!

PS This is my annual Valentine’s Day post . . . hope it inspires you to start writing to a special person in your life.

New Year Meaningful Musings

I hope 2018 is particularly meaningful for you. I am presenting on the topic today so it is close to my heart and always on my mind.

Frankl Quote Photo

 

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Capture what truly mattered in 2017

notebook-731212__180As the New Year rolls around it is way too easy to get bogged down in what we didn’t accomplish or do this year and to start making long lists of what we need to do in the 2018.

I think a much more rewarding way to start the New Year is to remember how wonderful you are by creating your personal WTW “Ta Da” List 2017.

I created the list years ago for a Wishful Thinking Works post and I use it twice a year to remind myself of all the good things – big or small – that have happened or that I have accomplished. Focusing on the positives and growth in our life is a great motivator and provides a stable foundation for future plans.

Why not use New Year’s Eve to celebrate you and what you have done instead of worrying about what you didn’t do?

Even if 2017 was your toughest year yet, you survived, and that is worth celebrating.

champagne-584072_960_720If you are alone on New Year’s Eve, embrace it!

Buy some bubbly, treat yourself to food you love, pop in a movie, read a good book or soak in a luxurious bath and savor being you.

Some of my best New Year’s Eves were spent alone – outdoors, reflecting on all the good things in my life. I sipped something wonderful, tasted something delicious and savored the moments.

As the New Year dawns, don’t worry about what’s next, just enjoy what is. You made it this far in life and have so much more to look forward to.

Happy New Year!

 

Words and stories that create magic

It is funny how words and stories come into our life. What is even more interesting to me is what makes them stick in our minds and become part of our memories.

I recently attended a Christmas concert at a nearby church and one of the readings included the following excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

“I do know what I want someone to give me for Christmas. I’ve known since I was forty years old. Wind-up mechanical toys that make noises and go round and round and do funny things. No batteries. Toys that need me to help them out from time to time. The old fashioned painted tin ones I had when I was a child. That’s what I want. Nobody believes me. It’s what I want I tell you.

Well, okay, that’s close, but not quite exactly it. Its delight and simplicity that I want. Foolishness and fantasy and noise. Angels and miracles and wonder and innocence and magic. That’s closer to what I really want.

Its harder talk about, but what I really, really, really want for Christmas is just this:

I want to be 5 years old again for an hour. I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be picked or rocked to sleep in someone’s arms, and carried up to bed just one more time. I know what I really want for Christmas: I want my childhood back.

Nobody is going to give me that. I might give at least the memory of it to myself if I try. I know it doesn’t make sense, but when is Christmas about sense, anyway? Its about a child, of long ago and far away, and it is about the child of now. In you and me. Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen. A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simpleminded, and terribly vulnerable to joy. A child who does not need or want or understand the gifts of socks or pot holders.”

― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

magical-1090663__340The passage was shared by the mayor of the town in which the church was situated. He was a youngish looking man in his early 60’s. Mid-reading, his voice cracked. He tried to continue, but as he stumbled verbally toward the sentence “I want to be picked up or rocked to sleep in someone’s arms, and be carried up to bed just one more time,” tears formed and rolled down his cheeks. He paused, looked out at the crowd of hundreds, and in this ultra-vulnerable moment, realized the crowd was with him. He smiled slightly, shrugged his shoulders and continued. I think he realized this was a safe environment for flowing tears, memories and moments of tenderness.  

I’m sure many in the audience teared-up, as well. I did – for him, for myself, for all of us, and for dreams unrealized and yet to come. In that moment, I believe that most of us became children again, and yearned, or at least understood the yearning for the magic of Christmas.

Fulghum’s words, the mayor’s tears and vulnerability and the feelings they elicited, have stuck with me and are now part of my stories and memories. I share them with you now, as a reminder that Christmas is a time of magic. Magic we can create for the children inside ourselves and for the children around us – young and old.

Reach inside and outside of yourself this holiday season to touch the hearts of those around you. You will fill yourself with joy and you may create lifelong memories for others. And, after all, isn’t that the true magic of Christmas?

 

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Capturing the holiday moments that matter

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!

heart-picture-1075034__340No surprise there, but they do seem to appear earlier and earlier each year. A couple of years ago I was faced with new challenges centered on blending our ever-growing and combined family’s holiday expectations and traditions. My husband and I were excited to be spending our first holiday together as a newly married couple when we quickly realized that having five sons and their wonderful families in two far-flung states, could make the holidays more complicated than ever.

My first thought was panic, my second and more sensible thought, was rather than worrying about how we were going to share the holidays with our respective kids and grand kids – we have 12, going on 14 – I would first figure out what truly mattered to me during the holidays, and then trust the rest would fall into place.

I had recently read a positive psychology article on the correlation between what folks value individually and what nations value and how we track both, when a thought resurfaced for me – what we measure grows.

You see, that which we deem important enough to measure, i.e. pay attention to, tends to grow. Ta da!

If I fill my holiday with strife and worry and thoughts of who gathers when and where, I was doomed before I began. BUT if I focused on what really mattered to me, perhaps I could increase the likelihood that those things would increase, or at least that I might be more likely to notice and enjoy those moments when they did appear. 

It worked!  Knowing what mattered and focusing on that made our first and subsequent holiday seasons richer, more memorable and way more fun!

Measure what matters

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What do you want to celebrate throughout the holiday season? What are your personal beliefs and values related to the season? In simplest terms, what is most important to you? Family? Love? Togetherness? New Experiences? Tradition? Food? Fun? Religion?

I decided I want to pay more attention to love. I focused on and savored all the acts of love I saw – moments of tenderness and caring, gestures of kindness and sacrifices of any size made in honor and support of the holiday. I was so busy looking for love – that I ignored, or at least didn’t stew as long or as deeply about the less than stellar moments that occurred along the way.

 

How to make your season brighter

  1. Ask yourself what really matters to you. What do you want to hold in your heart this holiday season?
  2. Then capture every moment that matches what matters to you. Note and savor the moments as they occur.
  3. To reinforce your resolve and truly impact your holiday spirit, give yourself a helping hand by using at least one of the suggestions listed below:
    • Jot down your memorable moments in a journal. (You can start a special holiday journal, pack it way with the holiday decorations and have the fun of re-reading and adding to it each year.)
    • Write your moments on bits of paper and store them in a jar to read during or after the holiday. (The jar can be saved from year to year and enjoyed year- long or before next year’s holiday season.)
    • Write your moments on holiday-colored paper and create a paper chain throughout the holiday with all the moments you have enjoyed and want to remember.
    • Encourage your kids, spouses and even your guests to add their special holiday moments to your jar or chain and watch them grow along with everyone’s holiday spirit.
    • Take a few minutes each night before you go to bed or when you wake-up to review these special moments.
    • Or, simply put a penny in a jar or bowl to capture each moment and watch your “riches” grow.

Truth is, we are in control of the holidays ahead. I know it seems like things move way too fast, and that the gift lists, demands and commitments grow longer and greater each year, but in my case so has the love. And, the more I remind myself of that, the brighter my season shines.

Here’s to enjoying the holidays ahead!

Please note: This post has been updated from the original Wishful Thinking Works published in 2015.

 

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5 Second Mindfulness

Thousands and thousands of us from around the world are participating in Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s latest and, oh so relaxing, free 21-day meditation series.

This mini-meditation was included in the series and I thought it was too wonderful not to share. (The series began on Monday but if you join today, you can still experience all of the first five meditations.)

Try this simple exercise to connect to the here and now, from master of present-moment awareness, Eckhart Tolle.

Tolle says, “Ask yourself, ‘Am I still breathing?’ You suddenly feel the air flowing into your body and out of your body… At that moment, you’ve entered the state of presence. Even if it’s only five seconds.”

Meditation Eckhart Tolle

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Grab a cup of tea or coffee, relax and read on

alarm-clock-2132264__340I was writing a post for my Meditation Facebook group this morning when I came across this photograph, which led me to slow down a bit and allow myself to spend some time wallowing in the wonderful memories tea and Fall have brought to my life.

I think my reverie was made easier, because there is a chill in the air this Autumn Monday morning in Florida.  Temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s are as cold as we get even in the middle of winter, so today’s weather was a welcome surprise for me.

With a cup of tea by my side I let my mind wander through some of the scenes and memories that a relaxing cup of tea and Fall weather have given me over the years. I spent time in my mind at kitchen tables around the world sipping tea and savoring the feelings those moments evoked.

My mental journey began with my sister in Avon, Ohio’; I love her kitchen and the view through her sliding glass doors – I never tire of visiting her. Her tea is loose leaf and deliciously flavored. I then traveled back in time to my Mom’s kitchen in the parkway house they lived in after moving from the home in which we grew-up. I remember feeling so happy that they were happy, while sipping her honey and milk laced tea.  After revisitng Mom, I stopped by my former mother-in-law’s – she kept Constant Comment in her cupboard for me  – she was a coffee lover her entire life. Next, I fast-forwared to time spent with my amazing host family in a small village in Macedonia 11 years ago, where I enjoyed fresh-dried and fragrant mountain tea and personal cross-cultural exchanges.

During another time living abroad, I sipped tea and cooked-up a storm with my Georgian host family in their tiny kitchen that was always cozy and warm and overflowing with family and friends. I completed my morning’s sojourn enjoying another special memory with my dearest friend in Florida, who I was able to share daily tea and conversation about our lives and the world around us for months at a time before she passed away last year. We odten laughed about the fact that she barely dipped her tea bag into the steaming water in her cup, while I often let mine steep as I sipped.

I hope you find time today, this week, or in the month ahead to sit and savor some of your favorite Fall memories and any present or future moments you create this year with the special people in your life.

Take time to take in the good, and both your body and your brain will be relaxed and refreshed.  I guarantee it will be time well spent.

 

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