The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, is big on tangible tools to help cultivate positive emotion and well-being. He’s helped many, I mean many, move out of Depression and into a more balanced and positive place; thank goodness for the positive psychology movement, one that has grown in clout through research over the last 20 years.
Today’s post is simple, I’m giving you one of Seligman’s exercises to try out. We are bombarded with messages on social media about cultivating an attitude of gratitude and frankly, I find it trite. Yes, gratitude is an essential expression for living a more contented life (note, I’m staying away from happy as it’s fleeting), but the short and sweet posts I read often sound dismissive, as if they’re saying, “stop it you, don’t complain and don’t be sad”. And maybe this is a good thing? Yet, I think it’s about balance. We must be able to express how we are, but we must also consider the greater good, the awesomeness of life, and thus, we must pay it homage.
The Gratitude Visit (Martin Seligman, Flourish, 2011):
- Close your eyes and bring to mind someone still alive who did something for you years ago that you never properly thanked them for. It was likely life changing. Or made your life considerably better in that moment. Got a face?
- Write them a letter. It should be about 300 words in length. Be specific and let the person know how much their actions / words impacted your life. As Seligman writes, “make it sing!”
- Set up a time to visit this person. Be vague. Let the letter reading be a surprise.
- When you meet your person, take time reading the letter and note their reactions. If the person interrupts, ask them to wait until the end as you really want to them to listen.
- After you’re done, discuss the content and feelings for each other.
Yowzer…this is big.
Yet, as Seligman’s research supports, it’s worth it – you’ll be happier and less depressed one month post. Yes, you do need to keep engaging in the practice of gratitude to continue to reap it’s benefits, but once you’ve got the juices flowing I imagine it will be hard to stop. Gratitude train here we come…
Homework (yes, I’m going to start assigning homework): If you’re willing to try this, please let me know in the comments section or send me an email at email@example.com. I want to understand your experience and whether you found it beneficial. I’m going to do it too. Let’s give ourselves a two week timeline?