Valentine’s Day decor and gifts started filling the shelves even before clearance Christmas goodies left the scene at my local Target and Kroger stores. It seems like it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next holiday and how you can spend that hard earned money of your loved ones. Well regardless of your relationship status this February, I have a Valentine idea that can change your life without impacting your wallet.
I want you to take a moment and think about the influential people in your life. You will need to choose one person (they must be living) that greatly impacted your life in a substantial way. Perhaps you have not adequately thanked this person until now. Do you have that special person in mind? Now your task is to compose a 300 word letter to this individual, detailing your gratitude for what they did and what it meant to you. Next you call this person on the phone and arrange a face to face meeting with them. Do NOT tell them why you are coming (we wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise because it could diminish the effect). I am sure you can guess what happens next. You meet up, read the letter and experience the magic. It is common to experience emotionality in this moment so bring a tissue (or even a box if you’re like me–a person that cries at sentimental TV commercials!). This exercise may seem simplistic but the results may also surprise you. Dr. Martin Segliman, commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, calls this exercise “The Gratitude Visit.” Positive Psychology focuses on human flourishing and optimal functioning so Dr. Segliman has identified various activities that increase happiness and are actually shown to decrease depression symptoms. “The Gratitude Visit” is one such activity. Studies have shown that after completing this exercise, participants were happier and less depressed one week, one month and even three months after sharing their gratitude. In fact there is a substantial body of research that suggests that people that regularly practice gratitude are happier and more joyous than those who do not. Perhaps if you successfully attempt “The Gratitude Visit” next weekend on cupid’s favorite day of the year, you will consider making a gratitude ritual a part of your daily routine. Some ideas include gratitude journals, gratitude jars, or even just sharing one thing you’re grateful for during your nightly family dinner conversation.
I’ll start. I’m sincerely grateful for each of you; Thank you for giving Northstar Counseling Center an opportunity to be a part of your life. Whether you are spending an hour in therapy with us or taking five minutes to read and share our blogs, we appreciate you more than we could ever put into words. You add meaning to our lives and teach us every day. Thank you.