When we practice gratitude, it’s good for our emotional and physical health, with recent studies reporting benefits such as less stress, better sleep, fewer aches and pains, and better heart health.
But how often do we practice gratitude toward our self?
There are many ways to practice gratitude, of course, from saying thank you to making lists and writing letters.
Martin Seligman, the founding father of Positive Psychology, suggests trying a Gratitude Visit. The directions are simple: to recall the face of someone still alive, who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better, but to whom you’ve never said thank you.
Write them a letter (read full directions here) and then plan to deliver it in person.
“Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying,” Seligman says. “When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life.”
Our tendency is to think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives, he says. By dwelling on the positive, including making a Gratitude Visit, we can counter this and find greater happiness.
Practice Gratitude to Your Self, Also
So when we think about thanking someone who’s changed our life and never been properly thanked, who could that be?
I can recall teachers, mentors, and even some friends to whom I could write letters. Probably you can come up with someone, too.
But is it possible that you also are someone who needs to hear a sincere thank you from yourself?
Who made the choices along the way that got you where you are today? How have you taken care of you? What decisions, big or small, have made you uniquely you, your life uniquely yours?
Perhaps you could write a letter to yourself, expressing your gratitude – even if it’s just for choosing the salad over the fries once, a week ago. Start small, and see what appears.
I know I can be my own worst critic sometimes, focusing on what I should have done or said instead of being grateful for what I accomplished or simply who I am in the world. I need ways to quiet the bully in my mind.
But while writing a thank you letter to yourself might seem awkward, it could be healing. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that more is right with us than is wrong with us.
Writing such a letter doesn’t mean we ignore our shortcomings. But instead of dwelling on the shortcomings, we take an opportunity to dwell on the positive. Sometimes it’s giving ourselves the affirmation that we seek from others.
What do you think? Can you practice gratitude by writing your self a letter?
A template for your letter
If you need help getting started, find a quiet place and use the following template to help prompt your writing.
It’s easy to focus on how you don’t __________________, __________________, and _______________. But there’s also so much you DO that is good: ________________________________________________________________________.
And no matter what you do, or don’t do, you’re always worthy of love, and respect, and gratitude.
Thank you for taking care of you in these ways: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
Thank you for: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
And even though it didn’t seem like something worthy of gratitude when it happened, thank you for ___________________________________________________.
It’s part of what makes you you.
Finally, thank you for showing up authentically in this letter. You are of infinite worth, the handiwork of God.
After you’ve written your letter, tuck it away for review later, or seal it and ask a friend to mail it to you a year from now.
What was this process like for you? Hokey, or helpful? Send me a note and let me know.
Hi! I’m Amy Hoogervorst, an integrative health coach, and I’m glad you’re here! If you’d like more information, ideas, and inspiration for a healthier you, I invite you to subscribe to my weekly Well Check, delivered each weekend via email.