Dr. Martin Seligman was one of the first to study positive psychology. In his book, Flourish, Seligman describes an exercise that he calls the “Gratitude Visit.” Here are his instructions:
Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet fact-to-face next week. Got a face?
After identifying this person, Seligman suggests you write a letter that expresses your gratitude and then read it to them in person. Your letter should include specific actions or statements and how the person positively influenced you.
I am not convinced that you must deliver the letter in person and read it to them (although that would be a wonderful way to show them how much they mean to you). Please don’t let the “delivery” part of Seligman’s exercise hold you back. I am sure that receiving a letter of gratitude would be appreciated.
Perhaps a single person comes to mind. If you are struggling to think of someone, consider these prompts:
- a mortuary school instructor or apprenticeship supervisor
- a current or former supervisor
- parent, grandparent or other family member
- a spouse or best friend
The trick is to get to work writing and then follow through on taking or sending it to them. If you’ll excuse me, I have a few letters to write.
Dr. Jason Troyer is a psychology professor, former counselor, grief researcher and consultant for businesses that want to better serve grieving families. He has written numerous aftercare materials, including the Finding Hope booklet series, and is a frequent presenter at funeral service professional events.
This information is not intended to replace information from a mental health or medical professional. The reader should consult an appropriate professional in matters related to his or her physical and emotional health.