If you are like us living in the northern hemisphere, the winter blahs can become almost unbearable this time of year. If you’re south of the equator, maybe it’s the dog days of summer. Here, though, I’m ready to get out and take a breath of spring. When those inevitable late winter snow days come, I just want to keel over. So, here is an antidote that packs a mood-boost wallop that studies have shown to pay dividends for months. As a bonus, this activity also doubles as a story prompt.

The “gratitude visit” idea comes from New York Times Bestseller, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have an Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Who has influenced you?

One of our all-time favorite personal story prompts is: “Who has been the most influential person in your life?” This challenge directly relates to that question.

Related: Questions to ask your parent or grandparents

Today, however, I am not just talking about writing or thinking about people who have influenced you. I am going to issue a challenge to express gratitude to someone who blessed your life but you have not thanked before. It might be a teacher, coach, mentor, or friend. This challenge is not only to think of this person but to do an exercise called a gratitude visit.

The gratitude visit challenge: 1. Think of who has influenced you. 2. Write a letter of thanks. 3. Deliver it in person. 4. Include as part of your story. 5. Notice how gratitude boosts your mood.

The gratitude visit exercise:

Here is what you do. Think of someone who had a profound impact on your life, someone who you never reached out to and told how they influenced you. Then, sit down and write that person a letter telling them specifically what they did to make a difference in your life. It doesn’t have to be super long, but long enough to make the point. Include how that impact still carries through in your life today. Be sure to say how you still think of him or her. Ideally, deliver the letter in person.

Click for printable of questions Everyone Should Ask

Related: LeVar Burton shared a powerful gratitude exercise in his RootsTech keynote

The gratitude visit, from the Power of Moments:

Expressing gratitude pleases the recipient of the praise, of course, but it can also have a boomerang effect, elevating the spirits of the grateful person. Positive psychologists, who search for scientific ways to make people happier, have discovered the potency of what’s called a “gratitude visit.”

 “Researchers have found that if you conduct a gratitude visit, you feel a rush of happiness afterward—in fact, it’s one of the most pronounced spikes that have been found in any positive psychology intervention.”

“Better yet, researchers say, this feeling lasts. Even a month later, people who conducted a gratitude visit were still happier than their peers in a control group.” (The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have an Extraordinary Impact, Chip Heath and Dan Heath p. 153-157)

In a month after the gratitude visit, why not reflect back on the experience? Be mindful of what you are experiencing in your body. Do you feel warm and happy? Does the positive feeling of gratitude return?

Include the letter in your journal or write about it in your story.

Now make a copy of the letter and include the experience in your personal story or journal. Also, consider bringing a digital recorder or recording app to your gratitude visit so you can capture the moment as oral history. It might just be magic! Afterward, you might reflect on the experience through journaling, or writing a more formal story vignette. Trust us, this is the stuff your family will want to read.

ad for courses showing a blank notebook

Related: How to start or boost a journal writing habit

I can attest to the power of the gratitude challenge.

When I first learned of this idea, I looked up my old yearbook teacher, reached out, and made a visit. He is retired now and was delighted to hear from me and invited me to his home. We had the most wonderful chat, and I shared how his class and his mentoring set me on a lifelong path of writing and publishing books.

Guess what else? It turns out that we have a lot in common today. My advisor is now a family history buff who has published books. He proudly brought out the book below to show me, and we had a great time talking about that.

It turns out my old yearbook advisor is a family history buff and published this book.

I could never have known when I was a teenager in his class how profoundly his teaching and all the skills I first learned in that environment would affect my life. I could go on and on about that, but the point here is this visit paid profound dividends in my own sense of happiness and wellbeing. This gratitude visit absolutely had the promised effect. I am so glad that I let him know how much I appreciated him while he is still healthy.

Related: 5 Tips for writing about friendship

Act now, today.

Who is your person? Write a letter today! Even if you don’t write a full letter or make a visit, why not take a minute to comment on who has influenced you by posting below in this article or on social media? We would love to hear about who has influenced you in your life. Also, the very act of expressing gratitude, even in a comment online, is powerful.

Quote on the power of mentors

If you are up for the gratitude visit challenge, let us know how it goes. Would you be willing to share your experience with us? We would love to publish a reader story about this.

Reference: From New York Times Bestseller: The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have an Extraordinary Impact, Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Simon and Schuster, October 3, 2017

Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. Rhonda lives to hear and write about people’s lives. She believes that when you tell your story, it changes the ending. Rhonda and her husband Milan restored an 1890 Victorian in Ogden. She especially enjoys unplugging in nature. Check out her books: How to Storyboard, and Every Essential Element. Most recently she was the writing coach of bestselling author, Rob A. Gentile, who wrote Quarks of Light, A Near-Death Experience: What I Saw That Opened My Heart.

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links which means if you purchase the book mentioned in our link, we make a small commission.

6 thoughts on “Take the gratitude visit challenge

  • January 13, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Hi Rhonda:
    Thanks for highlighting that winter blahs can be a difficult thing to go through this time fo the year. I grew up in tropical sunny Singapore and had no idea that seasonal change can play a part in one’s moods. Over the years, I have gained a better grasp and learned to manage my moods during these seasonal changes. January is often a difficult month! So when my mother who still lives in Singapore recently had a birthday, I decided to make digital prints in honor of her instead of the usual card sending. I title it, “Forever Love”. When I shared it with my community, I was met with warm receptivity and it reminded me once again that when you share something good out there, it often lift another person’s spirits as well. I have a Youtube link for the creative process if you think it may help your readers. Happy New Year!

    • January 14, 2022 at 8:27 am

      Angela, it’s wonderful to hear of your experience. Thank you for taking a moment to reach out. Yes, for those of us who live in winter climates, it can be a very real issue and it’s important to take care of ourselves so we don’t sink into full depression or, in my case, take moodiness out on the ones I love. Your idea to send something so personal to your mother sounds wonderful. What a great way to honor her and spread happiness around. Yes, I’d love to see the link. Go ahead and post it here.

  • January 24, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    This is a great reminder to be grateful, and it definitely gives me inspo for pulling myself out of that winter funk 🙂 Thanks for sharing! xo, Brittany | http://www.theblistblog.com

  • January 21, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    I love this Rhonda! I have learned that showing and expressing Gratitude benefits everyone involved! It heals, encourages, strengthens relationships, and a whole lot more! I love your challenge and can’t help but think of all the good that can come from doing this on a regular basis!

  • January 18, 2018 at 11:44 am

    What a great reminder to ourselves to provide gratitude to someone who has influenced us. Often I think about those people in my life…I will def have to do this challenge. 🙂

    • January 18, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      Kimi, when you do, will you let us know how it goes? We would love to feature some reader stories about what came out of this challenge. I (Rhonda) will be doing it too. 🙂

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