“The skills of becoming happy turn out to be almost entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, or not being angry." ― Martin E.P. Seligman
Over recent decades there have been many scientific studies into the value of gratitude letters, which is why we feel this would be a very useful tool to have on the Writing Therapy site.
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study on a variety of positive psychology tools and techniques. The 411 participants of the study were measured against a control group who were asked to write about early memories. On one of the weeks the participants were asked to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who they felt had never been properly thanked for their kindness. To Dr Seligman’s surprise the participants happiness rating increased dramatically. This increase in the happiness rating was more than for any of the other interventions tested, and the benefits lasted for several weeks.
Here’s how we are planning to implement Gratitude Letters on Writing-Therapy.com.
You will simply create a list of all of the people you would like to thank. You can add to this list at any time you like, as and when you think of new people to thank. The system will store this list safely and securely so you can be safe in the knowledge that prying eyes won't discover the list either accidentally or intentionally.
Your list can include friends and family, old school teachers and fellow students, sporting team mates, work colleagues, and absolutely anyone else you can think of - you might never have even met the person, and they might be dead or alive.
Once you get into the gratitude letter-writing habit you will start to think of many other less obvious people to thank such as the barista who always has a pleasant word for you, or the person who smiles at you as you walk down the street each morning, or the janitor who makes your apartment block so welcoming, or the local charity worker who helps so many people, or your favorite author, musician, politician or celebrity.
Start writing those gratitude letters
Now that you have your list you can start picking them off one at a time, in any order you like. For each person on the list write a letter that thanks them for the things they have done and explain in detail why you are grateful. The letter can be as long or short as you like and it will undoubtedly vary greatly from person to person.
This can be an amazingly cathartic experience, particularly if you are thanking people who may not have always behaved well towards you. You’ll be surprised how your opinion of someone can change once you start to sincerely thank them.
Gratitude letters are also a great way to recognize how important some people are, even though it might initially not appear so. For example, can you imagine what would happen if the trash man left your garbage to mount up for months on end, or if the delivery driver wasn’t there to drop of things you’ve ordered, or the scientists who are working on medicines that might one day save your life or the life of a relative or friend.
The great news ...
You'll probably be pleased to hear that it isn’t necessary to personally deliver your gratitude letters, as the main benefit of this process is the actually writing of the letter not in the delivery. However, if you do want to print out and deliver your letter you can do that too, but that’s completely optional.