By writing someone a letter of gratitude and reading it aloud to him or her, you can experience firsthand the benefits of being grateful. Studies by positive psychologist Martin Seligman have even reported that the effects of doing this just once can last for weeks!
STEP 1: Write a letter to someone you appreciate – typically, a person who has made a difference in your life, and to whom you feel grateful.
Choose someone who has contributed to your life in one way or another (e.g., emotionally, financially, or with some other type of support) – perhaps a person you haven’t yet fully thanked.
Brainstorm ways that he or she has contributed to you and had positive effects on your life.
Write down both general and specific things this person has done for you and how his or her actions have made you feel.
Compose a letter that is roughly one page in length, and then ask this person if you two can meet. Make sure not to tell him or her about the letter beforehand.
STEP 2: If possible, meet with this person and read this letter to him or her.
When you meet, read your letter to its recipient aloud and give this person time to let it sink in.
Pay attention to how reading this letter makes you feel.
Spend time reflecting with this person on the effects of the letter and what he or she has done for you.
STEP 3: If you are comfortable, write down how you felt and the highlights of your conversation.
* Try to do this practice with an open mind and withhold expectations about how you think the recipient will respond. Reading the letter aloud to its recipient is an important part of this method. Try to make sure you choose someone with whom you can meet in person.
This method was adapted from an exercise created by psychologist Martin Seligman called “The Gratitude Visit." Seligman describes this practice in further detail in his books "Authentic Happiness - Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Happiness" and "Flourish: A Visionary Understanding of Happiness and Well-being."