Just 15 minutes a week could change your life
If I told you there was one thing you could do every week that would make you happier, wouldn't you think it was worth giving it a try? It will take about 15 minutes of your time, I would explain. A small investment for a big payoff, if you ask me. I was reminded of this exercise this week when someone did it for me and I remembered how good it felt to be on the both the doing and the receiving end. I also remembered that there were studies to back it up and so went to the effort to research it again and am bringing it to you here this week. So let's get ready to transform your week ahead and take charge of your own well-being!
It's the simple act of writing a letter. I know, a letter? Who does that anymore, right? But that's what I said. A letter, not an email, not a text, not a 140 word or less spit out of words...a true letter that needs an old fashioned stamp and maybe even nice looking paper if you want to go that far.
The truth is that Martin Seligman, one of the fathers of Positive Psychology, took subjects for one week, just one week, and asked them to do one thing. Think about someone (who is still alive) that did or said something that impacted you and who you didn't get the chance to thank. It went something like this.
Think about a person who you wish you had thanked, for something big or small.
Write a letter of gratitude to this person, 300 words or so, concrete, specifically describing how they made an impact on you.
Let them know how often you think of them, how you remember this act so vividly, really give them a full picture of how they stay with you in your heart and mind.
Then, deliver it to them. Yes, visit them and hand them the letter.
It's like a "Gratitude Visit" and what he showed was that people's moods were boosted with this ONE exercise, this one act. Moreover, in further studies when it was repeated, it was shown that even if you didn't deliver it, but just wrote the letter, your mood was elevated. And it seems the results last beyond the moments of writing or delivering the letter.
I, myself, received a letter this week, from a dear friend, but one whom I don't get to see nearly enough..an honest to God, handwritten note on a cute stationary card, with gratitude and also possibly even more tender to me, just showing me that she thinks of me, that something I do, sits with her as a good thing. See how it benefits both the person getting the letter and the one writing it. A double win!
So, think about it. It's so simple. What if you use this as a wellness exercise each week. Just once, 15 minutes or so, your task is to write a letter to someone you genuinely feel grateful for. At work, from your past, in your present life, a family member, an old teacher, someone who lights up your day without knowing it. The possibilities are endless.
One exercise. Just once a week.
Write a letter of thanks. Of specific, concrete appreciation.
Deliver it or keep it for yourself.
But just write it.
It may be the best fifteen minutes you spend all week.
And maybe, just maybe, the gratefulness you write about will pervade your entire week and change your perspective.
Take it from this doctor. It's low risk but high yield. And being happier is an outcome I am willing to try for every week.