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.

Penning happiness

 

 

Would you like to make someone you care about happy and increase your happiness in the process? If so, write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life. The effect can leave you and the recipient feeling happier for weeks, even months. 

 

Last year I wrote and shared a gratitude letter with my Dad, who is now 91 and in and out of the hospital weekly. Am I glad I did it, YES!  Was it the easiest thing I ever did? NO! Was it one of the most rewarding, YES!

I’ve been writing retrospective thank you notes for years. I’ve written lots of cards to my aunts and to family friends of my parents for their special acts of kindness to me as a child. One of my younger brother’s god-mothers always brought a few of us close to his age (there are 9 kids in our family) treats on the holidays when she brought him a gift. One of my aunts hosted weekly gatherings at her and my uncle’s rural “resort” each Sunday in the summer; my siblings and I were able to swim, dive, jump, ride, row, fish and enjoy all sorts of other summer fun because my aunt and uncle were willing to put-up with an ongoing stream of guests. Those Sundays were magic to me as a kid, and I wanted her to know. More sweet memories – my godmother and her grown daughter took me shopping and to lunch during the holiday season and let me, within a specific price range, select my gift. I loved those trips.

Those letters and the memories they evoked were wonderful, but a gratitude letter is even a better way to say thank you. Here’s why:

  • It’s longer – shoot for 300 words.
  • It’s read in-person to its intended, 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.

Tips for making it work:

  • Write to someone, who did something nice or kind for you, but is someone you’ve never thanked.
  • Be detailed. Write specifically what you are thankful for. Include the whats, the whens, the hows and the whys.
  • Let your recipient know you are up to something good! 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.” A funny thing happened when I read my letter to my Dad. When I finished, he made a timid 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. Then 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 or laminating can’t hurt. A frame might seem a bit 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.

Happiness is contagious.

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. Sometime soon, I will share with you one of the most touching responses I received from a friend with whom I shared a gratitude visit. Just thinking about it makes me happy, and it happened almost a year ago!

Increased happiness for you and someone you care about is just a few pen strokes. Don’t let this free,  foolproof opportunity for joy pass you by – get started on a gratitude letter today!

WTW Dandelion

Last night and more

Last evening I met with 33 interesting, talented women to discuss happiness: what it is and how we get it.

Thank you to each and everyone, who attended.  It was great fun to be presenting in my home town area of Cleveland, Ohio.  Seeing family and friends made it extra special.

During the workshop, I asked each participant to write a total of 9 things they liked about themselves.

Usually we add one more at the end, leaving them with a top 10 list about themselves to take home, review and reflect upon to remind them just how wonderful they are.  (Sorry, ladies – I forgot #10, now you have homework.)

With a little bit of work, and shot of confidence, I hope each of them, and you, someday has a list of 100 things you like about yourself.  (It is worth challenging yourself to create a “100 word list of what I like about me.”  in 2010.)

Creating the list also helps folks feel more comfortable with the last activity of the night, which I will write about in a future post.  One person commented that the exercise was the first time she had ever done anything just about herself.

Throughout the workshop these great women also listed 9 people they knew.  The list was a starting point for another wonderful and proven way to bring more happiness into our lives, and the lives of someone special to us.

Martin E.P. Seligman, author, researcher, professor and leader in the positive psychology field, has each of his students in one of his classes each semester write a 300 word letter to someone they care about and whose help or friendship has deeply touched them.  Then they must – here is the surprisingly hard part, read it in person (technology is wonderful, but this really is a face-to-face kind-of thing) to the person they have written about.

Sounds simple, letting someone you appreciate know you care about them – and it is in theory, but actually putting the words on paper and sharing it with that special person can be a bit intimidating, but trust me and the thousands of other folks, who have done it:  It is worth the effort for you and the person you are thanking.

Please do not skimp on the words, 300 gives you enough time to round out your thoughts.  The in-person part gives you a chance to look into their eyes and tell them how much you care.  It is a small act of bravery, and one each of you will benefit from.

Please do try this at home. The weekend is a great time to begin gathering and writing down your thoughts.

Oh, and it is free.

And, to quote a well-known commercial – the feeling is priceless.  For you and for them.

Seligman calls it a “Gratitude Visit.”

That’s what I feel like each time I present a workshop.

With gratitude,

Patrice

PS to workshop participants:  You gave Marci a perfect score and even some bonus points for her kindness on the evaluations!  Thanks again, Marci for hosting the workshop, and for being you.

And, thanks to all of you for your great comments about the workshop, glad you enjoyed it

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