If you are like us, this time of year brings the winter blahs. I am a fan of a UV light and physical exercise to combat seasonal depression, but this activity packs a mood-boost wallop. As a bonus, it 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.
Today, however, we are not just talking about writing or thinking about people who have influenced you, but doing something specific to express that gratitude. We encourage you to express gratitude to someone who blessed your life but you have not thanked before. It might be a teacher, coach, mentor, or friend. Our challenge is not only to think of this person but to do an exercise called a gratitude visit.
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 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 and be sure to say how you still think of him or her. Ideally deliver the letter in person.
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 Heathp. 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 about the experience through journaling, or writing a more formal story vignette. Trust us, this is the stuff your family will want to read.
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 in this article or on social media? We would love to hear about who has influenced you. Also, the very act of expressing gratitude, even in a comment online, is powerful.
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.
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 over. We had the most wonderful chat, and I shared how that class set me on a lifelong path of writing and publishing books. I had no idea at the time how profoundly his mentoring would affect my life and all the skills I first learned in that environment. I could go on and on about that, but the main point for this article is to point out that this visit paid profound dividends in my own sense of happiness and wellbeing. It absolutely had the promised effect, and I am so glad that I let him know how much I appreciated him while he is still healthy.
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.
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, especially the uncanny moments. She and her husband Milan restored an old Victorian in Ogden and work together, weaving family and business together. Check out her latest book Remember When, the inspiring Norma and Jim Kier story.
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